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Mexican War and Introduction to the Civil War. Lsn 6. Agenda. Mexican War Limited War Turning Movement Technology Junior Officers Introduction to Civil War Road to War Causes Objectives and Strategies Comparison. Limited War: Winfield Scott. Epitomized the professional officer

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  • Mexican War
    • Limited War
    • Turning Movement
    • Technology
    • Junior Officers
  • Introduction to Civil War
    • Road to War
    • Causes
    • Objectives and Strategies
    • Comparison
limited war winfield scott
Limited War: Winfield Scott
  • Epitomized the professional officer
    • Served in War of 1812, brevetted to major general
    • Studied European tactics
    • Became general-in-chief in 1841
  • Selected by President Polk to lead a second major campaign in Mexico (Zachary Taylor’s was the first)
limited war objective
Limited War: Objective
  • Objective as a principal of war
    • When undertaking any mission, commanders should have a clear understanding of the expected outcome and its impact
    • Commanders need to appreciate political ends and understand how the military conditions they achieve contribute to them.
  • Winfield Scott saw Mexico as a war of limited objectives, to be waged by limited means
limited war objective5
Limited War: Objective
  • Based on this belief, Scott developed a largely political strategy
  • Believed that Mexican political life centered around Mexico City so completely that capturing the capital would paralyze the country and oblige the Mexican government to sue for peace in order to remain a government at all
  • Therefore his objective was to capture Mexico City, not to destroy the Mexican army
limited war treatment of civilians
Limited War: Treatment of Civilians
  • Scott conducted his campaign with strict regard for the rights of the Mexican citizens, making every effort to confine bloodshed and suffering to the Mexican army rather than the civilian population.
  • He scrupulously regulated his soldiers’ conduct and interaction with Mexican civilians, reducing contact to the minimum necessary for the sustenance of his army and the morale of his troops.
limited war treatment of civilians7
Limited War: Treatment of Civilians
  • “But, my dear Sir, our militia & volunteers, if a tenth of what is said to be true, have committed atrocities—horrors—in Mexico, sufficient to make Heaven weep, & every American, of Christian morals, blush for his country. Murder, robbery & rape of mothers & daughters, in the presence of the tied up males of their families, have been common all along the Rio Grande…. Truly it would seem unchristian & cruel to let loose upon any people—even savages—such unbridled persons—freebooters, &c., &c….”
    • Scott writing the Secretary of War after visiting Taylor’s army (Weigley, “History,” 187-188).
limited war
Limited War
  • Scott will carry his ideas about limited war into the Civil War with his Anaconda Plan
  • Many Federals, such as George McClellan, will advocate a strategy of conciliation toward the Confederacy
  • Such an approach will be rejected and the Civil War will become increasingly total
    • Pope’s General Orders
    • Emancipation Proclamation
    • Conscription
    • Suspension of some civil liberties
    • Sherman’s March to the Sea
limited war changing times
Limited War: Changing Times
  • “… while Scott was the preeminent military strategist of the first half of the nineteenth century, he occupied a lonely plateau in more senses than one: that at the zenith of his powers he was already a museum piece, a soldier of an age gone by whose perceptions of war and strategy had little influence on most of the very West Point graduates whose service in Mexico he so fulsomely praised, because the young graduates inhabited a new world of very different values from Scott’s, the military world of Napoleon” (Russell Weigley, American Way of War, 76).
turning movement
Turning Movement
  • Scott conducted amphibious landing at Vera Cruz and had to then move by land to Mexico City along a predictable, well-defended avenue of approach
  • Wanted to avoid frontal assaults by maneuver
turning movement11
Turning Movement
  • Maneuver
    • As both an element of combat power and a principle of war, maneuver concentrates and disperses combat power to place and keep the enemy at a disadvantage
    • Achieves results that would otherwise be more costly
    • Keeps enemies off balance by making them confront new problems and new dangers faster than they can deal with them
  • The form of maneuver that Scott relied on in Mexico was the turning movement
turning movement12
Turning Movement
  • In a turning movementthe attacking force seeks to avoid the enemy's principal defensive positions by seizing objectives to the enemy rear and causing the enemy to move out of his current positions or divert major forces to meet the threat.
  • A major threat to his rear forces the enemy to attack or withdraw rearward, thus "turning" him out of his defensive positions.
turning movement cerro gordo
Turning Movement: Cerro Gordo
  • Scott wanted to avoid a costly frontal assault so he had Robert E. Lee and other engineers recon a possible route around Santa Anna’s flank
  • Lee found a way to outflank the defenders, and Scott executed the first of several flanking movements in his march to Mexico City.
turning movements and the civil war
Turning Movements and the Civil War
  • “The Mexican War created an informal, unwritten tactical doctrine—to turn the enemy.” (Archer Jones)
    • Civil War battles and campaigns that involved turning movements include the Peninsula Campaign, Second Manassas, and Vicksburg
  • Nonetheless the Civil War will also include many costly frontal attacks such as Fredericksburg and Pickett’s Charge
technology rifles
Technology: Rifles
  • Two things that made these frontal attacks so costly were the rifled musket and the Minie Ball
    • A few volunteer units like the Mississippi Rifles had rifles in Mexico, but the Regular Army stubbornly held to smoothbore muskets

At Buena Vista, Jefferson Davis commanded the Mississippi Rifles to “Stand Fast, Mississippians!”

technology changing times
Technology: Changing Times
  • By the time of the Civil War, the rifled musket and the Minie ball will cause a change in military tactics
    • The defense will gain strength relative to the offense
    • Artillery will loose its ability to safely advance close to the enemy and breach holes in defenses
    • Close-order formations will become dangerously vulnerable
technology other examples
Technology: Other Examples
  • Steam-powered ships
  • Ironclads
  • Telegraph
  • Railroads
  • Balloons
junior officers rehearsal for the civil war
Junior Officers: Rehearsal for the Civil War
  • Approximately 194 Federal generals and 142 Confederate generals previously served in Mexico
  • Lee, Jackson, Hill, Pickett, Longstreet, Beauregard, Bragg, etc
  • Meade, Grant, Kearney, McClellan, Hooker, Pope, McDowell, etc
junior officers impact of west pointers
Junior Officers: Impact of West Pointers
  • In 1817, Sylvanus Thayer replaced Captain Alden Partridge as superintendent of West Point and began reversing the damage Partridge had done.
  • Thayer broadened and standardized the curriculum, established a system to measure class standing, organized classes around small sections, improved cadet discipline, created the office of commandant of cadets, and improved military training.

“The Father of the Military Academy”

junior officers impact of west pointers20
Junior Officers: Impact of West Pointers
  • By the time of the Mexican War, Thayer’s reforms had produced a generation of men who would fill the junior officers’ ranks in Mexico.
  • These lieutenants and captains stood in sharp contrast to the older officers who had not benefited from a systematic military education and training.
  • The impact of Thayer and West Point was readily apparent in Mexico.

West Point was founded in 1802 and was instrumental in training engineers in the 19th Century

junior officers impact of west pointers21
Junior Officers: Impact of West Pointers
  • Winfield Scott called his West Pointers his “little cabinet”
  • Scott was unwavering in his acknowledgement of West Pointers declaring,
    • “I give it as my fixed opinion that but for our graduated cadets the war between the United States and Mexico might, and probably would, have lasted some four or five years, with, in its first half, more defeats than victories falling to our share, whereas in two campaigns we conquered a great country and a peace without the loss of a single battle or skirmish.”
west pointers in the civil war
West Pointers in the Civil War
  • West Pointers will play a key role in the Civil War
    • 151 Confederate and 294 Federal generals were West Point graduates
    • Of the Civil War’s 60 major battles, West Pointers commanded both sides in 55
    • A West Pointer commanded on one side in the other five
civil war causes
Civil War: Causes
  • Slavery
  • States rights vs centralized government
  • Agrarian vs industrialized way of life
  • Cultural differences
    • By the time of the Civil War, “an entire generation of Southern young men… had come of age with a sense of Southern cultural identity, commitment to slaveholding, and a willingness to defend these values against a Northern culture” (Gary Gallagher)
road to war
Road to War
  • “War is nothing but the continuation of policy with other means.”
    • Clausewitz
  • Missouri Compromise (1820) -- Maine admitted as a free state and Missouri as a slave, but no other slave states from the Louisiana Purchase territory would be allowed north of Missouri’s southern boundary
road to war25
Road to War
  • Nullification Crisis (1832) -- Responding to a tariff on manufactured goods, South Carolina declared a state can void any act of Congress it feels is unconstitutional
  • Mexican War (1846-1848) -- viewed by some as a Southern attempt to expand slavery
    • Wilmot Proviso (1846) failed. Would have formally renounced any intention to introduce slavery into lands seized from Mexico

John Calhoun argued that each state was sovereign and the Constitution was a compact among sovereign states.

road to war cont
Road to War (cont)
  • Compromise of 1850 dealt with issues involving territories gained in the Mexican War and slavery
    • California admitted as a free state
    • Slavery in New Mexico and Utah territories to be determined by popular sovereignty
    • Slave trade prohibited in the District of Columbia
    • A more stringent fugitive slave law was passed that required all U.S. citizens to assist in the return of runaway slaves

Henry Clay, “the Great Compromiser,” introduces the Compromise of 1850

road to war cont27
Road to War (cont)
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) -- popular sovereignty; overturns Missouri Compromise
  • Harper’s Ferry and John Brown (1859)
  • Lincoln elected (Nov 6, 1860)
  • South Carolina votes to secede (Dec 20, 1860)
    • Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, and Texas follow
road to war cont28
Road to War (cont)
  • Lincoln takes office (March 4, 1861)
  • Fort Sumter (April 12, 1861)
  • Lincoln requests 75,000 three-month volunteers (April 15, 1862)
    • Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee secede

Restore Union

Therefore couldn’t completely alienate or destroy the South or the Southern people


Hold on to de facto independence

Continue the struggle long enough for the North to tire of it

Similar to American colonists

northern strategy
Secure border states

Still need to go on offensive to win

Scott’s Anaconda Plan


Secure the Mississippi River and cut the South in two


Capture Richmond

Anaconda Plan would take too long

In June 1861, Lincoln orders an advance on Richmond

Northern Strategy
southern strategy
Southern Strategy
  • Defend at the border
    • Political pressure to defend all territory
    • Maintain legitimacy through territorial integrity
    • Protect slavery
  • Offensive-defensive
    • Realize they don’t have the resources to defend everywhere
    • Allow Northern thrust to develop
    • Determine the main axis
    • Concentrate and counterattack at an advantageous time

20 million people

110,000 manufacturing establishments

22,000 miles of railroad

75% of nation’s total wealth

16,000 man Army and 90 ship Navy


9 million people (5.5 million whites)

18,000 manufacturing establishments

8,500 miles of railroad

Wealth lay in land and slaves (non-liquid)

No existing military


Had to project forces across large and hostile territory

Requirement for offense

Had to maintain supply lines

Fighting to regain preexisting status quo


Could take advantage of interior lines

Could win by only succeeding on the defense

Friendly territory and population

Fighting for homeland and independence

abraham lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
  • Lincoln had little to suggest he would be a good wartime president, especially in contrast to Jefferson Davis
  • Lincoln had no significant military experience
    • Served as a captain in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War but never saw combat
  • In actuality he was an excellent commander in chief who was well ahead of his early generals in his strategic thinking
abraham lincoln36
Abraham Lincoln
  • Almost from the beginning of the war Lincoln urged his generals to make the enemy armies their objective and to move all Federal forces simultaneously against the Confederate line
  • Many of his early generals, especially McClellan, arrogantly minimized Lincoln, thinking war was to be carried on by military professionals without interference from civilians and without political objectives
abraham lincoln37
Abraham Lincoln
  • Many of Lincoln’s generals clung to strategies of limited war and conciliation toward the Confederacy
    • McClellan stated, “I have not come here to wage war upon non-combatants, upon private property, nor upon the domestic institutions of the land.”
    • Meade thought the North should prosecute the war “like the afflicted parent who is compelled to chastise his erring child, and who performs the duty with a sad heart”
  • Lincoln did not find a soul mate in this strategic approach until Grant
jefferson davis
Jefferson Davis
  • “If modern computer-calculators had been available in 1861, they would have surely forecast that Jefferson Davis would be a great war director and Abraham Lincoln an indifferent one.”
    • T. Harry Williams
  • Davis had an excellent military background
    • West Point Class of 1828
    • Regimental commander in the Mexican War
    • Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce
jefferson davis39
Jefferson Davis
  • “Davis’s breadth of background probably better qualified him for high army command than any man in the United States….Yet some of Davis’s background would also be a handicap.”
    • Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones, 9
  • Part of this handicap can be traced to Davis’s experience in the Mexican War.
jefferson davis40
Jefferson Davis
  • Commanded the Mississippi Rifles, a volunteer regiment, in Mexico
  • Fell under the command of Brigadier General Zachary Taylor, the father of Davis’s first wife Sarah Knox who had died just three months after their marriage
    • Unlike Scott who made maximum use of his staff, Taylor’s forte was individual command rather than collective effort
    • From Taylor, Davis would learn a very self-reliant command style

Zachary Taylor

jefferson davis41
Jefferson Davis
  • Davis won great fame for his performance at Buena Vista
  • In 1847, he was offered but declined an appointment as brigadier general in the United States Army
  • Instead he returned to his political career

“Mississippi Rifles at Buena Vista”

The National Guard Heritage Series

jefferson davis42
Jefferson Davis
  • But Buena Vista made Davis very confident in his own abilities
  • “... Buena Vista was a relatively minor battle, so that the young colonel should not have assumed, as he did, that he was expert as a tactician and strategist. This assumption led to overconfidence when Davis was called upon to direct the military effort of the Confederacy”
    • Cass Canfield
  • Near the close of the Civil War, the RichmondExaminer lamented, “If we are to perish, the verdict of posterity will be, Died of a V”
jefferson davis43
Jefferson Davis
  • Took his title as Commander in Chief of the Confederate Army quite literally
    • “considered himself a military leader first and a politician second”
      • Chris Fonvielle
    • Had six secretaries of war in four years, but for all practical purposes, served as his own secretary of war and chief of staff.

Confederate Secretaries of War

Leroy Pope Walker 1861

Judah Benjamin 1861-1862

George Randolph 1862

Gustavus Smith 1862 (acting)

James Seddon 1862-1865

John Breckinridge 1865

jefferson davis44
Jefferson Davis
  • “as everything about the military fascinated him and he believed only he was capable of running things, the President performed tasks that belonged properly to clerks in the War Office, and even in the Adjutant General’s office. Conversely, as he squandered his time and energies in the field of his interests, Davis neglected affairs which properly belonged in the President’s office”
      • Clifford Dowdey

The White House of the Confederacy

  • Peninsula Campaign, Shenandoah Valley, and Antietam