Saturday, October 29, 2011

American Civil War: Early Form of Trench Warfare

My great great grandpa, Edward T. Miller, carried this musket for the 
Union at the Battle of Antietam (1862). Edward's pension papers formed part of 
my Daughters of the American Revolution application as 
his ancestor, Daniel Warner, fought and died at the Battle of Bennington (1777). 

         When studying American politics it's easy to be distracted by tabloid-like antics. Sometimes, however, that can be detrimental. Perhaps if military historians had taken a closer look at battle tactics used during the American Civil War, World War I would not have been as costly.
         During the last year of the American Civil War, a form of trench-style warfare based upon the rifled musket was developed. Military commanders learned that if they armed a soldier standing in a trench with one of these muskets aimed at advancing troops, he could eliminate 3-4 X his number. Thus, it began to no longer make sense to send large numbers of soldiers running at fortified positions.
         Half a century later during WWI, military commanders did not utilize the lessons learned of the nastiness and ineffectiveness of trench warfare; millions and millions of soldiers died. The commanders relied on Napoleonic tactics that had been effective before the development of the machine gun. Even American commanders did not utilize the knowledge that was gained from the Civil War trenches. For example, General John Pershing used Napoleonic style tactics during the Meuse-Argonne offensive in 1918.
         With regard to American politics, I try to listen a lot more than I talk because there are important subtleties that can be missed.
Rifled Musket Carried by my ancestor Edward T. Miller at the Battle of Antietam

Pictured Above: My ancestor - Edward T. Miller - carried this musket with him at the Battle of Antietam in the American Civil War. 4 X the number of Americans were killed/wounded/captured during that battle as on D-Day in 1944. If you point a flashlight down the barrel you can see the rifled grooves. Edward T. Miller's granddaughter, Margery Miller Welles, has been nominated to join the International Boxing Hall of Fame - she was one of the founding authors of Sports Illustrated

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