U.S. Army officers study the art and deeds of Robert. E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. If you ask military faculty why, they refer to our (USA + CSA) common military tradition.

I have always found this answer strange. No modern officer should be able to relate professionally on any level to Lee, Jackson, Bragg or their principal subordinates; at the same time, the histories of the Union high commanders resonate with material that speaks to every commander today.

The Jackson way, to take CSA stewardship in its most extreme form, offers a military fantasy.

The general leads an independent command. He has complete latitude in selecting objectives, designing campaigns, and executing operations. He is free from interference by the president, Congress, or other civilians. His authority is so broad that he can arrest his own general officers on trifles, and even humiliate them in front of their own troops. He is not obliged to share his plans with anyone. He is free to withhold strategy, objectives and even the details of orders from subordinates charged with executing them. This general is master of his own military justice system, with authority to shoot stragglers and deserters. He is not responsible for feeding or supplying his troops; the commissary and supply departments are. Consequently, he can force-march unfed barefoot troops day-after-day. Rain and cold but no tents? Someone else's problem. No clothes? Someone else's problem. No food? Maybe we can scrounge some today or tomorrow. Meanwhile – and the Vietnam-era officers dream of this – the public adores him.

All this is a recipe for 30 years in Leavenworth breaking rocks, should you try the Jackson way of war yourself today. If you bring this to the attention to the uniformed Jackson fantasists, as I did over 30 years ago, you are told that Jackson put the mission first. Well, he certainly did. Which reminds me of a related military fantasy at the Infantry School at the end of the Vietnam War. The old-timers from Korea and even WWII (we had a few of those on board then) would say, "All this BS goes away during war. Everybody gets down to business. The mission drives everything and the nonsense disappears." We would look at them, nod slightly and think, "Sorry, this BS is not going away." Nor has it. Nor, I suspect, was it ever banished.

The people who think you can force march parched, starving, shoeless troops in rags over hills and woods a distance of 25 miles or more per day, then fight battles (shooting stragglers en route) are probably the people who still think that when war comes, the trivia goes away. It did for Lee and Jackson; it does not go away in the U.S. Army, which means there is no common military tradition uniting USA and CSA.

Our modern military milieu was reflected in the federal forces of the Civil War era. Damned if you do or don't types of orders; political missions tacked on to military ones; letters from Congressmen to commanders demanding to know why someone was not promoted; the Secretary of War wanting to know why the troops were not getting enough fresh water or fresh vegetables; legislative junkets to your sector of the front; civilian interference in military justice; and commanders being responsible for soldiers' food, water, clothing, ammunition, even morale (!) despite the existence of commissary and supply bureaus.

The commanders of today, encumbered by regulations, oversight, micromanagement, multitasking, gross interference in their professional prerogatives, and with one eye on civilian management, another on career advancement have a home in the war fought for the Union … should they ever wish to leave Confederate fantasyland.

In the meantime, I will concede that you can get a lot out of unfed, unpaid, barefoot, ragged troops when they perceive no legal or other limits to your authority, no mercy in your justice, and no regard for your subordinates. Let's just agree not to model that too closely.

For some extreme Jackson fantasies, go here, and here.