The other day I was going through a pile of xeroxes I had made months earlier and stumbled on this nugget that I had since forgotten about. It is a list of principles of war. I showed it to a buddy who is a retired colonel and he said that this is an army list and not something some author created. He said other countries’ armies have similar lists and he went through them briefly with me. Anyway here is the list and then I thought I’d examine Albert Sidney Johnston in the Shiloh campaign by this list.
Objective: Direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective.
Offensive: Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative.
Mass: Concentrate combat power at the decisive place and time.
Economy of Force: Allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts.
Maneuver: Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.
Unity of Command: For every objective, ensure unity of effort under one responsible commander.
Security: Never permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage.
Surprise: Strike the enemy at a time or place, or in a manner, for which he is unprepared.
Simplicity: Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and clear, concise orders to ensure thorough understanding.
So now Johnston’s review
Objective: Did he direct every military operation towards a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective? Not really. Johnston and Beauregard were operating on different plans. They committed troops to battle in different areas. Now if one plan had been stuck with then it might meet this criteria with the main debate being if the objective was attainable.
Offensive: Did he seize, retain, and exploit the initiative? As best he could while alive, yes. Of course there are going to be lulls in a battle and some missed opportunities, but by and large Johnston did a good job on this score.
Mass: Did he concentrate combat power at the decisive place and time? Yes and no. The original attack did not really do this as each corps was stretched across the width of the battlefield. Then Beauregard sends men towards the Crossroads (which I don’t think could be called the decisive point as taking this position did not win the battle). To finally make the Peach Orchard line fall, which led to the capture of Prentiss’ men, Johnston did concentrate his power. Although there were not too many brigades to concentrate he did what he could with what he had. There was not a huge attack with every brigade at his disposal but he funneled the men he had into the attack that finally caused the Peach Orchard area to fall. Not a huge concentration so my yes on this question is lukewarm at best.
Economy of Force: Did he allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts? No, because Beauregard and Johnston worked at cross purposes. Beauregard tended to funnel men into the attack on Sherman and McClernand on the Confederate left while Johnston was on the right directing the attacks. The allocation of combat power was seriously messed up.
Maneuver: Did he place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power? No. The Union fell back to a nice line near Pittsburg Landing.
Unity of Command: Did he ensure unity of effort under one responsible commander, for every objective? No. The attack plan with each corps attacking in one long line meant that the corps commanders never had control over their corps.
Security: Did he permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage? No. The Confederates were the one that gained the unexpected advantage with the early morning attack. Johnston finally scores one solidly in his column.
Surprise: Did he strike the enemy at a time or place, or in a manner, for which he is unprepared? Once again this one is clearly one Johnston did right. Truthfully for this one and the previous one the Union did a lot wrong to allow Johnston to do well with surprise and security but he still did well.
Simplicity: Did he prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and clear, concise orders to ensure thorough understanding? I almost want to say yes because allow the method of attack was flawed it was understandable. Everyone joined the battle fairly well. But Beauregard’s orders and Johnston’s plan were not the same. Beauregard orders forced the action towards the Landing while Johnston was hoping to turn the Union away from the Landing.
For the nine principles I give Johnston good scores on three with two others that are a little of both. Tomorrow I’ll tackle Grant’s performance at Shiloh.