Railroad Generalship: Foundations of Civil War Strategy
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS COMBAT STUDIES INST
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Since the dawn of history, military strategy has been dominated by the inexorable calculus of logistics-distance, time, transport capacity, and consumption. For thousands of years, every army that waged war relied upon the muscles of its men and animals to carry it across the countryside. It is sobering to consider that, up until 1830, every soldier that ever went into battle got there on his own feet or by the efforts of an animal. Every weapon, every round of ammunition, every pound of food eaten by an army, every tent peg, and every bandage reached the battlefield by muscle power. The only exceptions were those resources transported by water and those extracted from the countryside. Ironically, the armies with the largest contingents of draft animals for their supply trains also faced the most difficult logistical challenges each of the animals pulling a supply wagon had to eat too, which meant that even more wagons and animals were needed to carry food for the animals hauling supplies for the fighting troops. Naturally, one then needed animals to carry fodder for the animals carrying fodder. This pattern of diminishing returns compounded dramatically the farther an army got from its supply base. Typically, food for animals constituted more than half of an army s supply requirement. Under the best of circumstances, an army relying exclusively on muscle-power transport could carry a maximum of about ten days worth of supplies. No wonder that armies of the preindustrial age were so often hungry, ragged, and exhausted, spending far more time scouring the countryside for food than they did fighting the enemy.
- Surface Transportation and Equipment