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Old 04 Apr 11, 16:41
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Average Civil War Marching Speed

I was wondering if there was a handy table (or set of paragraphs) somewhere - forgive me if there's a link to this already in the subforum, I've been digging around looking for it and I'm coming up blank.

Roughly how fast would infantry have marched? Per hour? Per day?

I know this was often subjected to the needs of the campaign (witness Jackson's Foot Cavalry) but I'm also trying to work out how long they would have tended to rest between marches while on campaign.

...and then the same for cavalry, as I assume (again, let me know if I'm wrong) that artillery marching speeds would be comparable to infantry - if a little slower.

Thanks in advance
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  #2  
Old 04 Apr 11, 20:08
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[QUOTE]
I know this was often subjected to the needs of the campaign (witness Jackson's Foot Cavalry) but I'm also trying to work out how long they would have tended to rest between marches while on campaign./QUOTE]
You are right about the needs of the campaign. The size of the body moving was also factored in. (Can't move 20,000 men as fast as you can move 2,000.)

Regulations required a 10-minute break every hour. Marching and fighting at night was rarely done, so the march was generally limited to the time between dawn and dusk. Moving troops would make their breakfast and coffee well before moving out at first light, and they'd make camp while they could still see, and dinner after it was too dark to march.

Ten miles per day was fairly leisurely. Twenty was common, but pushing it. I've heard of thirty, and even forty, but a good fight had left the men after such a march. There are numerous incidents wherein a commander's excuse for not being aggressive enough was "my men had been marching hard all day and were wore out."

Artillery horses were more precious than men. Despite their seeming brawn, without shoes, adequate fodder, forage, and rest, the guns are lost.
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Old 04 Apr 11, 21:01
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That seems like a good rule of thumb, cheers.

I presume a leisurely cavalry march might be on the order of 15 miles a day, scaling up rather more dramatically when they push it?
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Old 04 Apr 11, 22:17
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Originally Posted by Khryses View Post
That seems like a good rule of thumb, cheers.

I presume a leisurely cavalry march might be on the order of 15 miles a day, scaling up rather more dramatically when they push it?
One begins to wonder why someone like you would be in need of such information...
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Old 05 Apr 11, 00:22
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One begins to wonder why someone like you would be in need of such information...
Even we mere mortals need to work out rates of motion from time to time.

Maybe I'm looking at asking a WWYD for Jackson's Valley campaign...

...or maybe I'm poring over a map trying to work out alternatives to a cunning plan that historically failed (painfully) to work
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Old 05 Apr 11, 00:26
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[QUOTE=Lars;1799856]
Quote:
I know this was often subjected to the needs of the campaign (witness Jackson's Foot Cavalry) but I'm also trying to work out how long they would have tended to rest between marches while on campaign./QUOTE]
You are right about the needs of the campaign. The size of the body moving was also factored in. (Can't move 20,000 men as fast as you can move 2,000.)

Regulations required a 10-minute break every hour. Marching and fighting at night was rarely done, so the march was generally limited to the time between dawn and dusk. Moving troops would make their breakfast and coffee well before moving out at first light, and they'd make camp while they could still see, and dinner after it was too dark to march.

Ten miles per day was fairly leisurely. Twenty was common, but pushing it. I've heard of thirty, and even forty, but a good fight had left the men after such a march. There are numerous incidents wherein a commander's excuse for not being aggressive enough was "my men had been marching hard all day and were wore out."

Artillery horses were more precious than men. Despite their seeming brawn, without shoes, adequate fodder, forage, and rest, the guns are lost.
Stonewall Jackson couldn't care less how far his "Foot Cavalry" marched. He was on horseback, so it didn't bother him as much. From what I've read, 30-plus miles a day was the norm for Jackson's men.
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Old 05 Apr 11, 13:02
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Khryses View Post
Even we mere mortals need to work out rates of motion from time to time.

Maybe I'm looking at asking a WWYD for Jackson's Valley campaign...

...or maybe I'm poring over a map trying to work out alternatives to a cunning plan that historically failed (painfully) to work
What's a "WWYD"?
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Old 05 Apr 11, 15:15
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A 'What Would You Do' - how would you lead the Army of Tennessee, what would you have done as Lee on the 2nd Day of Gettysburg, etc.

Out of interest, what would you have done in Jackson's shoes from February 1862 - as much as possible without the benefit of hindsight?

Can one improve on success? Presumably yes, but I can't see it.
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Old 05 Apr 11, 15:29
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What you have to keep in mind in that you can move a portion of an Army (like Jackson could do) a LOT quicker than an entire army that has to bring along wagons, artillery, etc. that need more rest and fuel (horses and mules). Add the terrain, weather, whether you are in friendly or enemy territory you can see that 20 mi. was a good clip. Sedgewick's Corps movement on the 2nd day at G'burg was one of the feats of the Civil War, considered many men keeled over from heatstroke. On the opposite side Slocum's 12th Corps had only 5 miles to go to reach G'burg and it took him most of the day.
Mac was a notorius slow mover, his AOP would hardly move (joke).
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Old 06 Apr 11, 04:00
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average person can walk 3 miles per hour
that's by their self
put a large group of them together
bunch em up and then string em out
bunch them up again at bottlenecks and such
and then string em out again
how far do you think a large group can march in a day?

ten miles?
maybe 15..
that's it..

and that's for one day.

make em move for days on end
and average goes down.

if you have to somehow get a supply train pulled by horse and muless( or worse yet Oxen), to get there at more or less the same time as the men on foot
the average is even less

OH there are record marches on the books
Jacksons campaigns early in the war are full of them
but those are the exceptions, not the rule

I suggest anybody who cares
look at Shermans march to the sea
he wasn't up against much opposition
but he took about 6 weeks or so to go 200 miles
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Old 07 Apr 11, 15:26
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It's the horses pulling the wagons that are the limiting factor, not the men per say. On a good day with well fed and cared for horses on a good road 15 miles is possible. It scales accordingly.

If you cut lose from the train and force march then longer movements are possible, on the order of 30 miles. However, this involves risk and brings the troops out of supply and thus isn't sustainable. It's only used when reinforcing forces in contact or rarely on raids (such as Jackson did in the Valley on occasion).

Over prolonged campaigns armies tend to move slowly. In the Valley Jackson was sub-5 miles a day on average, as was Sherman when marching to the sea.
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Old 08 Apr 11, 02:16
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Originally Posted by KICK View Post
I suggest anybody who cares
look at Shermans march to the sea
he wasn't up against much opposition
but he took about 6 weeks or so to go 200 miles

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Originally Posted by 67th Tigers View Post
Over prolonged campaigns armies tend to move slowly. In the Valley Jackson was sub-5 miles a day on average, as was Sherman when marching to the sea.
I love the full posts you guys made but you just can't put Sherman in there as an example like this. Sherman's army was at the defenses of Savannah in less than 4 weeks. Nov 15th to Dec 10th. The defenses were examined and Ft McAllister (which was further from the starting point than Savannah)was assualted and taken in 28 days on Dec 13th four weeks.

Road distances from Sherman's starting points are well over 200 miles. That is without considering the less efficient roads of the day, far less frequent bridges, setting a pace to detach and recover heavy foraging parties and major feints towards tactical and strategic objectives.

Union forces starting from Atlanta and Decatur would have to average 10 miles a day to reach Savannah in 25 days as they are 248 and 249 miles away on todays interstates. Those starting from Jonesboro would take 9.4 days (235 miles).

In the worst case if Sherman's closest infantry marched without deviation and attacked Ft Mcallister without any pause on Dec 13th they would still have averaged 8.9 miles a day.

Hardee abandoned Savannah on Dec 20th. THe mayor surrendered on the 21st but the march ended on the 10th or at the latest the 13th. The remaining week was taken up by the investment and scouting of the defenses, communicating with the fleet, the north and negotiating with Hardee for surrender.

McAllister surrendered 28 days after Sherman started. at 5 miles a day it would have taken him 50 days to get there with his closest infantry.

Shermans troops were veterans but and kept up a good average pace for a month. Some units greatly exceeded it on some days. The army traveled with limited wagons and artillery but they had to forage extensively. The march was a prodigious feat. No green armies or group of commanders could have kept it up so long. Most troops did far more than double 5 miles a day. I've seen it suggested that Sherman's march was 300 miles. I find that unacceptable but I realize that we are talking marching miles not airline miles. Considering the roadnet of the time plus tactical concerns and strategic deception I realize many troops may have surpassed that.
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Old 08 Apr 11, 07:28
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Thanks people, particularly those who put their answers in context.

I have a lot of instances to put these up against, and having the varied numbers to feed into them can only help
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Old 08 Apr 11, 09:43
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Originally Posted by Widow Maker View Post
I love the full posts you guys made but you just can't put Sherman in there as an example like this.

Why can't you use Sherman example?

his little walkabout of the virgin South is as good of an example of a long term moving average as you can find in the war..
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Old 09 Apr 11, 06:50
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Why can't you use Sherman example?

his little walkabout of the virgin South is as good of an example of a long term moving average as you can find in the war..
I started to tell you that, yes he is an excellent example but he marched about twice the five mile a day rate you were trying to suggest and many of his troops would have had to exceed even that rate. Your 5mi/day figure might very well be accurate but you can't use Sherman's march to support it.

Then I realize that Sherman's march is atypical of army sized marches in many ways. I don't think you can find many examples in the ACW of an army even half his size that marches for a whole month in hostile territory without stopping or having a substantial force deployed in front of it. Possible execptions might be found in the trans-Mississippi but those armies by the nature of the terrain, the campaigns and the transport systems were organized differently.

I'm not slighting Sherman's march. I'm suggesting that you are underestimating it. Of course Sherman's army was composed of veteran units, it had been streamlined and lightened specifically to speed march and the ranks were culled of those likely to straggle. All the troops knew that they only had and could only forage a certain amount of food. They knew they had a very real clock ticking on their survival. Bottom line it was not a typical march. It was an exceptional performance and in defense of your 5mile a day suggetion it was not a typical marching average.
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