John C. Carter
1st Modern War?
Tue Jul 31 14:59:27 2001
While there is a lot of support for the American Civil War as the first modern war, as demonstrated by the use of more "advanced" weaponry and technology, higher casualties, and the use of fortified positions; there are those who would argue that there was nothing new or modern about the war at all. For a contrast to the modern war theory, you should read Paddy Griffith's "Battle Tactics of the Civil War." Mr. Griffith (who has been quoted on this web site recently) is a senior lecturer in war studies at The Royal Military Academy in Sandhust England. He would argue, for instance, that the rifled musket did not revolutionize Civil War tactics due to its increased firepower. Attacking lines were not mowed down at increased ranges before coming into close contact with the enemy. The inaccuracy of the gunfire by the attackers and defenders (due to poor training, and other personal factors) and their failure to either attain their local objectives through tactical attacks, or to counterattack after a successful defense; enabled opposing forces to go into the ground at traditionally close ranges and fight a prolonged firefight. This was what led to the increased casualties of the war, and not the increased effectiveness of the weapons.
It's an interesting alternative to many of the modern ideas about Civil War tactics. Even if you aren't entirely convinced by his theories, it will make you think about the possibilities. Pickett's charge at Gettysburg, for instance, will make a lot more sense when you look at it through his reasoning.
He would rank the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 as the beginning of modern warfare.