Both sides in the American Civil War experienced a degree of parity in all characteristics of the Western way of war. However the Union was able to maximize its system of war finance while the Confederacy was not. This fact of the Federal government’s financial expertise granted the Union an asymmetric advantage over the Confederacy which contributed significantly to the Union’s final victory.
Union and Confederate forces alike employed four aspects of the Western way of war throughout the conflict without either side gaining more than a local advantage over the other. Civil War armies were infantry-centric and the preferred weapon of both sides, demonstrating an effective and equal use of battlefield technology by both combatants, was the rifled musket firing the Minie ball. The rifled musket was introduced in the decade before the Civil War and issued as the primary infantry weapon by both sides. Both sides also employed breech-loading and repeating rifles which represented a technological advantage over the rifled musket. Even though the effect of these weapons on the field was great; they never conferred more than a local advantage. 1
The formations of both sides routinely displayed a very high degree of discipline on the battlefield. Both armies were plagued with desertions and absenteeism, however, the firm display of resolute discipline on the field was common coin to be spent by commanders in both armies. The men of Sumner’s and Hooker’s divisions who unfailingly attacked the almost impregnable Confederate positions at Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg and the well-known Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg show clearly that neither side had a definitive advantage in terms of battlefield discipline.
The operational efforts of both sides were characterized by the western tradition of aggressive action to force results. Despite the defensive strategy favored by the Confederate government, Robert E....