Trenches and Lines: New Battle Tactics Introduced in the Civil War

The civil war was really the first time we can see the old and ancient battle tactics of lines clashing, hand to hand combat, and calvary fighting start to shift to a more modern style of combat. Also, we can really see the emergence of how battle tactics of one side could still lead them to victory despite having less resources and troops. This was really where generals such as Lee and Stonewall Jackson really shined due to there great battle tactics. An important point was that the traditional charge at enemy lines strategy was a consistent failure. This was because of the new advances in weaponry that made it hard to charge enemy lines such as cannon lines and better guns. The “minie” bullet was a bullet that was much easier to reload, making these lines easier to defend. These lines could decimate an entire line of troops before they could even fire a bullet. A notable defeat of a calvary and military charge that failed was the Picket Charge in the battle of Gettysburg. This was pretty much a last effort of the Confederacy to win a loosing battle, but still important to note that most of the squads or legions that charged were completely obliterated before reaching Union forces. This idea of holding lines and an easier way to defend these lines through better weaponry really created this new strategy really continued through world war 1 with trenches. There even was an emergence of trench warfare at the Battle of Petersburg. The Confederacy were very outnumbered during this battle, but General Lee still managed to only loose 38000 men to Grant’s 61000. Although Lee’s tactics were better, Grant’s army was too well supplied and had way more reinforcements. This is a great example of how well the trenches and lines worked during the civil war. 23000 troops was a massive difference even though the Union eventually won the battle. This battle not only shows how better strategies can win a fight and also this line-trench strategy adopted by both sides.

Map of the Trench Warfare in Petersburg


Another really important Strategy that the Union used to finally defeat the Confederacy was the depletion of the enemy’s resources. We can see this through Grant’s capture of New Orleans an a huge focus being put on capturing the Mississippi River. Even Stonewall Jackson lead the Confederate Valley Campaign of 1862, to cut off Union Support of General McClennan’s army. This idea of cutting off support by both sides was really important. While we can see this strategy being used in the American Revolution and Wars between France and Britain through blockades, we can really see an emphasis of cutting enemy resources and reinforcements in the Civil War.


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