From Kornblith to Winik and back again

Here's an interesting short essay on the uses of history by Gary Kornblith.

Faced with the job of class stimulation, Prof. K challenges his youths to identify the end point of the Civil War, a challenge near and dear to my own heart. He then draws an analogy between Appomattox and the announcement from the deck of the Lincoln, "Mission Accomplished."

But I think we have apples and oranges here. To say "Mission Accomplished" in that specific context requires aggressive political betting while to say "Appomattox  = end of war," requires an historiographical analysis that snubs the record. When the surrender of Lee is elevated by false historiography to the equivalent of a Union "Mission Accomplished" it passes out of history and into a realm of politics as pure as that of a re-electable president announcing military victory in time for another national mandate. 

The Appomattox idea is absurd on every level. Viewed from the deck of the Lincoln: all armies smashed, government toppled, joyful populace, time to declare victory and hope it sticks. View from Appomattox Court House: enemy government intact, enemy armies fighting (and winning) set piece battles, hostile local population all about, uh oh.

I'm sorry Kornblith turned this line of inquiry into a class lesson in his own retail Democratic politics, but then professional historians have an astonishing affinity for non-historical expression. The next logical step in his presentation was to tackle the question "How do wars end?"  He should have taken that one example at a time. The South not becoming Iraq has been a huge moneymaker for author Jay Winik (April, 1865). I'm sure it could have been a classroom pleaser as well.