Cerro Gordo: National Road

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					Mexican War and Introduction to
        the Civil War
             Lsn 4
• 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
   – Served in War of
     1812, brevetted to
     major general
   – Studied European
   – 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
• Objective as a principal of war
   – When undertaking any
     mission, commanders
     should have a clear
     understanding of the
     expected outcome and its
   – 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: 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
• 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
• 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
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
• 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
• 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
• “… 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
• Scott conducted
  landing at Vera
  Cruz and then had
  to move by land to
  Mexico City along
  a predictable,
  avenue of
• Wanted to avoid
  frontal assaults by
          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
  – 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 Movement
• In a turning movement the
  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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• “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

• Two things that made
  these frontal attacks
  so costly are the rifled
  musket and the Minie
   – A few volunteer units
     like the Mississippi
     Rifles had rifles in
     Mexico, but the
     Regular Army            At Buena Vista, Jefferson
     stubbornly held to      Davis commanded the
     smoothbore muskets      Mississippi Rifles to “Stand
                             Fast, Mississippians!”
  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
  – Close-order formations will
    become dangerously vulnerable
 Technology: Other Examples
• Steam-powered
• Ironclads
• Telegraph
• Railroads
• Balloons
   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
• 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           “The Father of the
  improved military training.            Military Academy”
     Junior Officers: Impact of West
• 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.                    West Point was founded in
• The impact of Thayer and         1802 and was instrumental in
  West Point was readily           training engineers in the 19th
  apparent in Mexico.              Century
   Junior Officers: Impact of West
• Winfield Scott called his West Pointers his “little
• 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 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
•   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
• “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 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.    John Calhoun argued that
      Would have formally             each state was sovereign
      renounced any intention to      and the Constitution was a
      introduce slavery into lands    compact among sovereign
      seized from Mexico
              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
   – Slave trade prohibited in
     the District of Columbia
   – A more stringent fugitive    Henry Clay, “the
     slave law was passed that    Great Compromiser,”
     required all U.S. citizens
     to assist in the return of   introduces the
     runaway slaves               Compromise of 1850
            Road to War (cont)
• Kansas-Nebraska Act
  (1854) -- popular
  sovereignty; effectively
  overturns Missouri
• Harper’s Ferry and John
  Brown (1859)
• Lincoln elected (Nov 6,
• South Carolina votes to
  secede (Dec 20, 1860)
   – Mississippi, Alabama,
     Louisiana, Georgia,
     Florida, and Texas follow
             Road to War (cont)
• Lincoln takes office
  (March 4, 1861)
• Fort Sumter (April
  12, 1861)
• Lincoln requests
  75,000 three-month
  volunteers (April 15,
   – Virginia,
     Arkansas, North
States in the Civil War
• North                  • South
  – Restore Union          – Hold on to de facto
     • Therefore             independence
       couldn’t            – Continue the
       completely            struggle long
       alienate or           enough for the
       destroy the           North to tire of it
       South or the            • Similar to
       Southern people           American
              Northern Strategy

• Secure border states
     • Still need to go on
       offensive to win
• Scott’s Anaconda Plan
     • Blockade
     • Secure the Mississippi
       River and cut the South
       in two
     • Wait
• Capture Richmond
     • Anaconda Plan would
       take too long
     • In June 1861, Lincoln
       orders an advance on
            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
  – Allow Northern thrust to develop
  – Determine the main axis
  – Concentrate and counterattack at an advantageous
• North                     • South
  – 20 million people         – 9 million people (5.5
  – 110,000                     million whites)
    manufacturing             – 18,000 manufacturing
    establishments              establishments
  – 22,000 miles of           – 8,500 miles of railroad
    railroad                  – Wealth lay in land and
  – 75% of nation’s total       slaves (non-liquid)
    wealth                    – No existing military
  – 16,000 man Army and
    90 ship Navy
• North                      • South
  – Had to project forces      – Could take advantage
    across large and             of interior lines
    hostile territory          – Could win by only
  – Requirement for              succeeding on the
    offense                      defense
  – Had to maintain supply     – Friendly territory and
    lines                        population
  – Fighting to regain         – Fighting for homeland
    preexisting status quo       and independence
• Fort Sumter, First Manassas, Early
  Amphibious Operations

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