Reflections of a Civil War Historian: Essays on Leadership, Society, and the Art of War

By Herman Hattaway | Go to book overview

THE CIVIL WAR ARMIES
CREATION, MOBILIZATION,
AND DEVELOPMENT

This piece was written at the request of the German Historical
Institute and read in April 1992 at a weeklong symposium in
Washington, D.C., concerning comparisons and contrasts
between the American Civil War and the German Wars of
Unification. The star-studded assemblage included just about
everyone whose scholarship was pertinent to that topic from
America, Germany, and France. The papers were subsequently
edited by Stig Forster and Jorg Nagler and published by
Cambridge University Press in a book entitled On the Road to
Total War. I relied exclusively upon secondary sources.

The United States Civil War compelled both North and South to create, mobilize, and develop armies far larger and more complex than ever before had existed in the Western Hemisphere. In the process, armies were molded that in potency and in modernity would become fully equal to those of the great military nations of Europe—but not until after considerable development, which was accomplished only gradually. The Confederacy initially patterned its military system exactly after that of the Union. In both armies, as the war progressed, evolutionary changes occurred—and this is the key to understanding how much more crucial was development than was creation or mobilization in rendering the Civil War armies the potent entities they became.

Since its earliest days, the United States had maintained two separate military forces: an active, regular organization of professionals, and the militia, a volunteer, civilian force to be swelled in size commensurate with any emergency. A major conflict, such as the

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