Question of the Week: 2/14-2/20/22

Would you rather attack or defend a Civil War fort? Why?

10 Responses to Question of the Week: 2/14-2/20/22

  1. Defend. Some of these earthen forts were pretty formidable. Given there various elements. Some of the third system forts could be the same. However some did fall to various forces during the war.

  2. Attack and go into a siege, if necessary. Because that is basically how Grant and Sherman won the war along with the Anaconda Plan blockage.

  3. Attack.. Defenders lose mobility and lines of supply. Rifled canon rendered mortar and brick vulnerable, and no fort was immune from mortar fire.

  4. Defend, all other things being equal, which they rarely were. Give me the earthen work Fort Fisher, and 1000 more men, and the second assault would have been broken.

  5. The Civil War fort I would most want to defend: Fort Pickens, guarding the entrance to Pensacola Bay. First Lieutenant Adam Slemmer, USMA Class of 1850, took decisive action in January 1861 and moved his First U.S. Artillery force from difficult-to-defend Fort Barrancas across the Bay to Fort Pickens on the same day that Florida seceded from the Union. Pickens was the best sited and strongest of the four bastions guarding the Bay and Pensacola Navy Yard, and its position at the western tip of 43-mile long Santa Rosa Island provided safe anchorage for U.S. Navy ships approaching from the Gulf of Mexico (south). Slemmer and his force of 80 men proved an embarrassment to the budding Rebel Cause: a mere 165 miles by rail south of the first Confederate Capital at Montgomery; and eventually holding Braxton Bragg and over 10000 troops in situ, unable to make effective use of the captured Navy Yard or the trading Port of Pensacola. Fort Pickens remained in Union hands during the entirety of the war.
    Fort Heiman is the Rebel bastion I would most want to attack. Hastily constructed on the heights overlooking Fort Henry, the artillery at Fort Heiman, across the Tennessee River from sinking-in-the-flood Fort Henry was meant to present crossfire and the threat of plunging fire to the gunboats sent by Flag-Officer Foote. But on the morning of 6 February 1862 a division led by Charles Ferguson Smith rushed from their beachhead, up the slope, and overwhelmed Fort Heiman without firing a shot: the hastily departing Rebels even left behind meals cooking on campfires, which were enjoyed by Federal troops as they settled into comfortable locations and “watched the show” taking place below: Foote and his seven gunboats pounded Fort Henry into submission in less than 90 minutes.
    Defend or attack? Depends on the day, the location, and the leader.

  6. Depends on the fort. I would like to defend Fort Monroe or some of the Washington defenses. That said, if Farragut is attacking any fort, I want to be on his side.

  7. After learning more about how Fort Jackson faired during the bombardment from Porter’s mortar boats, defending does not sound fun. Attacking doesn’t sound fun either, but if there’s a good strategy, it’s doable.

  8. Defending is always harder. On the defense, you have to prepare for every single contingency. As a young Infantry officer, defensive missions were the most laborious, requiring infinite amounts of preparation. You never really get it all done. But, on the offense, you pick an avenue – or two – and that becomes your plan. You then work toward that one plan.

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