UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Military administration in the Confederacy : the Army of Tennessee, 1862-1864 Gow, June I.


In l86l the Confederacy faced a major problem in military administration. She had to develop a system for the organization, training, and direction of her armies. Military and political leaders alike recognized the problem, and drew on the military theory and practice of the old United States Army in repeated attempts to evolve an effective administrative system for the Confederate armies. The commanders of the Army of Tennessee tried to solve the problem by appointing three principal administrative officers. The chief of staff exercised a general supervision over the several staff departments, and at his commander's discretion also assisted in the direction of line operations; the adjutant general headed a department responsible primarily for the issue of orders; and the inspector general through his department maintained discipline and efficiency. The appointment of chiefs of staff, the co-ordination of administrative work at all command levels through a departmental structure, and the emergence of the inspector general's department were all innovations, unknown in the old Army. The success of these innovations varied according to the qualifications of each staff officer, the commander's interpretation of the officer's role, and the ability of the two men to work well together. Success also depended on the willingness of subordinate line commanders and junior staff officers to accept the authority of the headquarters staff. Thus in the Army of Tennessee field administration was conditioned less by rules and regulations than by personal factors. To reduce the personal element President Jefferson Davis and the War Department wished to establish a centralized system of administration, which would increase the War Department's control over the field commanders, and at the same time make the staff more independent of the line. The commanding generals of the Army of Tennessee successfully opposed this plan, insisting on their authority over their own staff. The personal equation therefore continued to be the most striking feature of Confederate military administration. At different levels of the military hierarchy it stimulated the traditional rivalry between staff and line, encouraged a significant rejection of the principle of subordination, and contributed to a lack of harmony between command and administration. As a result the Confederacy failed to develop an efficient administrative system. The failure derived in part from the personal rivalries and jealousies which plagued the Southern armies, and in part from the disputes inherited from the old American army over the nature and distribution of military authority.

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