Both sides at the beginning of the Civil War were less than prepared for a war of any type, much less what it would become over the next four years. Not only were they not prepared with the amount of basic war supplies they would need, but a basic command structure was less than perfect, particularly in the South. No one foresaw the scope that war would take on, since the only experience that either side had with relatively large scale battle was during the Mexican War.
With the election of Abraham Lincoln the South reacted with predictable results. Lincoln had been portrayed as such an enemy of slavery, that it was automatic that they would fear that he would try to remove their property. In 1860, four months before the start of
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West Pointers were a relatively small group, and on both sides friendships existed with their new enemies. Even Jefferson Davis was a graduate of West Point, and had fought with distinction in Mexico. As each of the seceding states left the Union they took with them many experienced officers, most notable of which was Robert E. Lee, after being offered command of all United States forces. This left holes in the command structure of the North that took time to correct. With both sides using officers in their commands with almost identical training, and many of them friends, it was sometimes not difficult for opposing officers to guess at what their opponent might do.
When most people think of the military commanders of the Confederacy, most often Robert E. Lee is mentioned in conjunction with the Army of Northern Virginia. However, in reality the war started with Lee being in command of Virginia state troops, before being promoted to a general in Confederate service. Until he was brought back to Richmond to serve in an advisory role to Jefferson Davis early 1862, he served inconspicuously in western Virginia, and South Carolina. Generals such as Pierre G.T. Beauregard, and Joseph Johnston took the forefront of command, beginning at Manassas. Lee begin his command of the Army of Northern Virginia after Johnston was wounded during the battle of Seven Pines, and became the leader most often linked to that organization.
As the war progressed the command