The Business of Civil War

I finished Mark Wilson's The Business of Civil War: Military Mobilization and the State, 1861-1865 and am glad to recommend it.

Now for some nits.

* This is a book about the military procurement effort so the title is misleading.

* On whatever terms they set for themselves, the author (and publisher) are promising way too much for a 225 page survey, the chapters of which are essentially essays.

* The point of this book may not interest Civil War readers as it is aimed at debunking certain received wisdom in Gilded Age history. The Civil War procurement effort is fodder for demonstrating the formation of immense bureaucratic organization centrally directed by the government (pre-Gilded Age) and for showing massive industrial enterprises at work (again pre-Gilded Age). As a result, there is just enough material supplied to carry Wilson's points but not enough to describe the procurement effort in systematic way.

* Certain arguments internal to the book are not sustained or developed (such as that Montgomery Meigs inherited a well managed, thoroughly professional department without adding much value to it).

Nevertheless, the author has marked out a territory which he now owns: the origins of modern bureacratic and corporate forms being rooted in the Civil War's Quartermaster Department, through which the bulk of military spending passed.

Meigs' authority and responsibility were big stuff: over 100,000 civilian employees in the first half of the war; factories run at arsenals employing huge workforces; untold millions in disbursements. The man was essentially at the head of a government trust made up of many large state enterprises any one of which far outstripped the largest American firms of the day. And he was the head of a truly massive military bureaucracy.

In terms of organization and scope of work, the Army's quartermasters were operating at exponentially higher levels than captains of industry, cabinet officers, or field generals. They seem quite modern.

When you juxtapose the patronage, informality, and personal dealing that represented federal civil government standards, 1861-1865 with the orderly, rules-based administration of the parallel government run by the chief quartermaster, you get some sense that indeed here is a precursor of what reformers intended for the Civil Service in a later day.

So a Civil War result can come out of what is essentially not a Civil War book. We learn what all those quartermasters were up to during the war.

Giving credit where credit is due

These entertainment reporters think Spike Lee made the movie "Confederate States of America."

Enjoy the many free clips, anyway.
NEWS | Pennsy lawmakers stalled on endowment fund for Gettysburg state monuments * NM Civil War veteran honored with Mass * Exhibit sheds light on ravages of war during the fall of Atlanta


Craig Symonds and rewarding bad behavior

Craig L. Symonds is one of the few Civil War historians publishing today capable of analyzing naval policy as history. He "gets" Joe Harsh. He is intrigued enough by the Joe Johnston conundrum to produce a study.

But he is also tempted by the demons of popularity. Two examples: this can be justified but this is beyond the pale.

With a teetering author like Symonds, you want to reward good behavior and punish the bad.

The Roosevelt Naval History Prize has (over the last decade) been awarded to writers of what James McPherson likes to call the people's history - aka pop history. McPherson himself won the prize - with his wife - for editing some inconsequential letters in 1997 (while he was president of the AHA) . This feat has positioned him - in lieu of Symonds - to write the definitive history of Civil War navies.

But I digress. The Roosevelt committee has reached out to Craig Symonds to reward him for another foray into "the people's history." Pity.

Where are the prize committees looking out for us, the advanced readers? Might some university press not scrape up a little money for a small trophy? Or a little plaque that could be awarded amidst fanfare and self-congratulation? It could be re-used with a new name inscribed on it each year. Total cost = $39.99 plus engraving.

Sometimes I wonder.

(The prize was awarded Symonds in May; this piece appeared over the weekend.)

Hokey is as hokey does

... you'll find Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Jefferson Davis and General William Sherman and other historical figures from the Civil War era. They will be dressed in period clothes and delivering powerful arguments about issues that surrounded the war.
It's the High Plains Chataqua staged for people to busy to read or think, people not embarassed to have some costumed clown deliver their HISTORY! to them. Get this, from a professor no less:
"They are human beings trying to come up with answers that will make sense to them."
They? Being statesmen, one assumes they were looking beyond themselves. If we're talking about the actors, not the statesmen, I'm not sure they'll ever make sense of the question, "What the hell was I thinking when I got on the stage dressed as (whomever)?"

Casino funds ACW site

The Grand Ronde tribe in Oregon is funding the restoration of a Civil War period fort next to its gaming parlors:
With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the fort became home to the 4th California Infantry Volunteers. The men wanted to fight a war, but never got to fire a shot. They could only read about the great battles - Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and so forth - in the newspaper.
NEWS | Missing headstone of Civil War veteran returned to Ohio * Will General Cleburne statue end up in Ringgold? * Restoring 1863 vista at Gettysburg * Science backs Gettysburg legend


The cliche factory rolls on...

... in a landscape where it will always be 1965.

Gallagher on TV

Some of you are Gary Gallagher fans: note that his appearance on C-Span2 is being promoted in targeted web advertising with the come-on that you can call in your questions.

The fly in the ointment here is that clicking on the ad link brings you to the current Book TV schedule, not the one for August 6 - the one you need - and that a click on the Gallagher program link on that page brings up a screen labeled Encore Booknotes. You can't phone an encore program, of course, and it seems unlucky that the Gallagher page says "No program has been scheduled for this category at this time."

C-Span rarely does ACW author interviews. Hope this works out for them.
NEWS | Shell explodes, Civil War relic collector injured * Society raising money for restoration of Civil War battle flag * Hunley downed by loose hatch?


Nationalization and the ACW war industries

One of the fascinating things about Mark Wilson's new book, The Business of Civil War: Military Mobilization and the State, is his rundown of federal control of war industry during the ACW. The feds themselves competed with contractors and through Meigs' quartermasters, they put at least 1/4 of the new, massive national war production in key military goods into army-managed facilities. The contemporary rationales for this are worth visiting in a future post.

Meanwhile, this just in from HNN: Why It's Time to Nationalize the US Defense Industry . This HNN piece is high concept, starting from a premise that the business of defense is national business. But in Wilson, the ACW quartermasters are operating on micro-economic rationales: contractors are colluding; their prices are too high; the quality is second rate; the army can do better without a middleman; the army needs to produce goods at a standard the private sector can then model. The quartermasters are also operating in a political mode: poor women need higher income than contractors will pay; soldiers' families should be preferred for government work; the political balance will tip in key cities if military industry there is privatized.

I have been prepped for all this, by these good people and their point that the current military setup turns our top generals into mere shepherds (poodles?) of military procurement. (One of their heroes, Jim Burton, sits on my county board and does my interests proud, bless him.)

I am not grinding a political axe here, it's just that Mark Wilson has got me rethinking the business-of-war issue via those old Civil War anti-contractor memes.

Wilson did an article on ACW price fixing here. The Italians seem to dig him. And he's featured in an MIT course on ACW technology.

See for yourself.

(Caption to Harper's cartoon, above right: PENNSYLVANIA BEEF CONTRACTOR. "Want Beefsteak? Good Gracious, what is the World coming to? Why, my Good Fellow, if you get Beefsteak, how on earth are Contractors to live? Tell me that.")

Have they learned nothing in 50 years?

American Heritage does the Johnson Administration in under 2000 words.

Bad news for "The Last Full Measure"

AP reports:
Movie director Ron Maxwell has begun paying back the loan he received from Washington County, Maryland for a film project that later stalled. Maxwell was unable to begin production of the Civil War movie "The Last Full Measure," much of which was expected to be filmed in the county.
Admin note: I posed this by mail earlier today but it did not make the blog for technical reasons. If Blogger coughs it up later, I'll delete this post.
NEWS | Gettysburg (S.D.) gets its own cannon * Live broadcasting planned from Monitor wreck *Oglesby mansion reminder of Decatur's prominence in Lincoln story


Lincoln's war powers and the courts

During my military service, should some loose talk have led to a politcal observation someone would inevitably offer the comment: "I thought we solved that problem in the officer's club last night?" End of topic. Instant cure for the political psychosis.

Not sure if they have officer's clubs anymore - they say Clinton abolished them to reduce expenses - and if they do have them, I'm not sure they would serve alcohol to today's athletic, health-conscious officer corps. Not sure, in other words, if the world's problems are being solved at happy hour.

I do think of that line when I myself try to do too much in a single blog posting. I also think of it when I see some mere newspaper columnist tackling monumental issues in a brief piece.

Now, Nat Hentoff (right) is no mere columnist, but he is suffering from the delerious overconfidence that marks his trade if he thinks he can settle the war powers controversy in a column.

We are often exposed to Lincoln's rationale for the suspension of habeas corpus and I have seen more than one Civil War historian leave the argument where it lies in the early war, i.e. the war powers of the president are undefined. Hentoff does Civil War readers the favor of reminding them that Lincoln was repudiated in 1866 when the Supreme Court said, "'The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances.''

Our pop historians, ever careful of their discipline, naturally leave the events of 1866 out of their histories since they are charged only for reporting on the period 1861-1865. Unfortunately, that leaves a lot of readers deeply impressed with Lincoln's interpretation of presidential rights without supplying them with arguments (and law) contra Lincoln.

Now, I have noticed, in the defense of his conduct of certain matters in this current war, our incumbent president seems to take the definition of war powers as an open question. This should resonate with ACW readers - it resonated with me. I have also noticed, sadly, that the lifestyle section of the papers hereabouts report that the president and his vice president are avid readers of pop history.

And so, I appreciate Hentoff bringing up 1866 and all that to correct the Administration's pop history tendencies but I don't think a ruling in the matter of habeas corpus settles the entire business of war powers.

When the Supreme Court decides, "'The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace..." the court has not clarified what war powers are, nor has it settled the basis of its own authority in defining war powers.

Drat, now he's got me doing it.

Tour guide specializes in Mormon War

Interesting article on a Mormon War tour guide. Harney, Marcy, Johnston feature prominently - what a roster. Good to see a two-volume history of that conflict in preparation.
NEWS | Group seeks to restore Kansas monument * Bull Run I re-enacted * Historians slowly unravel Fayetteville Arsenal's secrets


Saintly letter discovered

Do you remember that other 13th Amendment?

You know, the one that would have made slavery legal nationally? I refer to the slavery amendment that Lincoln urged governors to adopt in March, 1861?
ART. 13. No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.
Well the fourth of many Lincoln letters urging the adoption of the national slavery amendment was discovered in Allentown recently.

No big deal though. As usual, it was (somehow) all Buchanan's fault.

The perfect heritage tourism headline

They misrendered"HISTORY!!!" as "history" but otherwise it's the perfect headline: Preservation of Civil War history advances with state grants.

And where did the money go? "... to the Catoctin Center for Regional Studies at Frederick Community College, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick and the Catoctin Aqueduct Restoration Fund." (The NMCWM appears to be the fig leaf here.)

Dive under a Civil War headline like this a year from now and the awardees will be a pet shelter, a day care for working moms, and a highway extension.
NEWS | Custer ambush site to become "Gettysburg Commons" * Maury remembered * Ex-slaves' land heirs feel island shift


Trojans and Rebels

To improve Shakespeare, just add American Civil War content. Some Canadians are staging Troilus and Cressida as a Civil War costume drama (on a beach!).
... arrogant Trojans find a fine fit in the preening ambitions of the Confederate aristocracy, pragmatic Greeks are perfectly paralleled in the sober seriousness of the Union army, and the differences between the two armies are now so clear that a marvellous new energy emerges.
Will they do the accents? Apparently.
The Greeks are ... believable in their stoic Union behaviour and clear "Northern" enunciation.
It's an interesting perspective, the North as stoic - not my own sense at all.

But as to the theatre, you look at some of these stagings and think, "Just write your own play, will you please?"

A new frontier for re-enactors ...


The service asks, “Where Was God During the Civil War”?

The deacon says
, "God does not take sides."

The parishoner says, “I really like the Civil War.”
NEWS | Hay and Nicolay to be honored on courthouse lawn * Georgia Civil War Commission elects Chickamaugan * Diabetes forces Civil War re-enactor to hang up uniform


Nobody visits the Dry Tortugas

If a pristine ACW site in the Florida Keys can't pull them in, might the heritage tourism crowd draw a lesson from that?

The news as history as comedy

Two stories from the same newspaper in the same town, Natchez.

Story one (July 6): Jefferson College hosts Civil War camp for children. "About 25 children marched in formation around Historic Jefferson College Wednesday. The college is hosting a Civil War day camp Wednesday through Friday for children ages 8 through 12. The children play the part of Civil War soldiers in training." (Grayclad soldiers, no doubt.)

Story two (July 14): Boxley: We need heritage tourism now. "Requests to build a better black heritage tourism in Natchez — and to do it quickly — won support at the Tuesday meeting of the Board of Aldermen."
NEWS | Slave's heirs in fight to hold his property * Ohio ACW vets honored * Georgia county condemns land to save battlefield


On my 100th anniversary

I see today's visitors pushed Site Meter over 100,000 visitors.

Not to seem ungrateful but Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit collects 100,000 every 30 hours or so and my own second ACW website collected 250,000 its first year of operation. I'm not a "phenomenon" as Sean has previously said, I'm a plodder.

Thanks for plodding along with me. To the good people who have started ACW blogs in the last year or so, please keep plodding too.

Another striking work of digital history

This is exactly the sort of project for digital publishing.

Inherently repulsive to commercial publishers.

As these labors of love see daylight, digital publishing will become absolutely indispensible. Give it about 10 years.

History and futility

This is a profoundly nihilistic use of history:

Civil War guerrillas offer lessons for Army in Iraq

There is nothing like a "lesson" in this story.

Read it and note the painfully obvious nostrums mixed in with a general pessimism. The piece may not convey the essence of the staff ride it is describing, but this is as close to lessons as it gets:
"If you want to hurt the guerrillas, you have to win the hearts and minds of the populace. That's lesson number one."

"The guy who helped you during the day, don't close your eyes on him because he could be trying to kill you or put an IED out."
I'm glad someone got to recycle a few trusty Vietnam-era cliches, but you want the right historic examples - the closest match - to overlay your current war with examples of similar problems solved successfully.

Which brings me back to Vietnam and the uses of history during that war. There was a constant drumbeat of "History says you cannot..." History was this great reservoir of negative intelligence filled with incontrovertible evidences of things that could not be undertaken successfully. It was remarkable and utterly ahistorical - a step lower than pop history, if that's possible.

The staff ride through Civil War Missouri has a way to go before scraping the bottom of that barrel, but my, my does it bring back memories for me.
NEWS | Trail will trace Missouri’s Civil War heritage * Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation buys 100 acres * Decisive Oklahoma battle remembered


HISTORY on the march

I see that HISTORY is on the march and that history had better get the hell out of the way. The report (with my emphasis):
VERONA, Miss. - The body of a Confederate soldier discovered on property slated for development has been laid to rest in a cemetery. [...] Funeral patrons got the full view of how fallen soldiers were laid to rest during the Civil War with more than 100 re-enactors participating in the burial. [...] Dressed in wool costumes that were worn by Confederate soldiers, the re-enactors marched through the cemetery with Grist's coffin, which was pulled by a mule-drawn hearse.
Meanwhile, this just in from the costume department at the Army War College:
Early in the Civil War, hasty and mass burials occurred without benefit of identification and documentation, because the large number of casualties were both unanticipated and unmanageable. As late in the war as 1863, specific reference to mass graves appears in the report of Samuel Weaver, who was responsible for relocating Union dead from battlefield gravesites to the newly established National Cemetery after the Jul 1863 Battle of Gettysburg.

OT: Speaking of banjos

The idea of having a Civil War era banjo contest at Antietam reminded me of a lunch I had with an old friend recently. I had seen him perhaps twice since 1978; he said, "You left your banjo at my apartment in L.A."

I had come back from Korea and was redeveloping the instrument as a "slide banjo" played with the neck of a broken wine bottle. (Giant steps ahead of Bela Fleck.) Slide banjo: musical precursor to Civil War blogging. Musical equivalent, perhaps.

Haven't touched a banjo since 1978, but love this site.

Heitage tourism - funding alibi?

The Candyman has been distributing sweets across three Maryland counties on the pretext that tourists will flock to those counties. This is burlesque at it's finest:
Now the region scarred by the North-South conflict is getting state help on projects including a Civil War-era banjo conference at the Antietam National Battlefield and faux gas-lamp street lighting in Taneytown, where visitors can walk the roads that soldiers took to nearby Gettysburg, Pa., and enjoy gourmet food at Antrim 1844, an antebellum-mansion-turned-bed-and-breakfast.
(My empahsis.)

Worthy grant winners all, no doubt about it, but not exactly tending toward a geographical concentration.

Honey, tonight - the faux gaslights of Taneytown! You remember Roger Taney, (image, top right) of the Dred Scott case? It'll be so romantic. We'll go right after the banjo concert.
NEWS | Bible stolen during Civil War battle returns home * Group to map sunken Monitor * Remains of Civil War schooner belived to have been found


Calling all Lincolniana specialists

So I'm watching an episode of Have Gun Will Travel and I encounter a premise that has embedded within it this esoteric Lincoln factoid (or edutainment fictoid).

The Mexican government, at some point before the twin hammers of Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott are brought down upon it, is presented as having nationalized Roman Catholic church property in what is to become the American Southwest, and then as having sold said properties to all and sundry.

Abraham Lincoln is presented as having issued a presidential order directing the resale of said lands back to the Church under terms and conditions that are not entirely clear.

Is this fictitiously gilding the Lincoln halo or is there some basis in fact here?

I see from this website, that Benito Juarez (in power after Lincoln's death) "sold off lands that had been expropriated from the Church to hacendados (big landowners) who had supported the Liberal cause."

On the face of it, looks like we have an anachronism...

I solved it

The problem I have had accessing the Internet, answering email, and posting to this blog over the last five days has been solved.

Back to work.


Confederate AWOLs: the glass half empty?

Have been poking around Rebel AWOL anecdotes and am encountering some stories as horrific as the Union's own.

Big rethink in progress.

Joining the ranks of the educated

Milestone today. I finished my application and sent it in to Kings College, University of London. Acceptance into the masters program for War Studies? We'll see. Read about it in one of Mark Grimsley's blogs.

Bloggers: educating one reader at a time.


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.


The Centennial lives on

Mea culpa. Andy's gentle chiding reminds me to make distinctions.

Good people doing good work have been inspired by dogmatic Centennial literature. Without that inspiration, we might not have this new work. Certainly Gerald Prokopowicz is one of those and I intend to talk about his book soon. It is fundamentally non-Centennialist in its methods, by the way, fundamentally non-literary, fundamentally analytic.

In one way, at least, Gerald remains true to his Centennial inspiration - in trying to develop public history as a discipline, in looking for ways outside of publishing that can bring history to the broad masses, an enterprise dear to Nevins and McPherson but which they confined to book writing. Can public history be done without resorting to a "party line"? Nevins and McPherson's careers shout "no" but Gerald seems to be finding a different way, an open way sensitive to and interested in contrary views and new thinking.

On the radio, Professor P. is the antithesis of the Centennial historian. He is open, engaging, Socratic, and capable of broad discussion of uncongenial opinions. For the flip side of this coin, read the notes provided by Allan Nevins to Charles Wainwright's A Diary of Battle where every comment the diarist makes that does not pass American Heritage's editorial policy tests is corrected via footnotes.

Corrected, not challenged. And yet, we would not have Diary if not for Nevins.

So Andy has a good point if he invokes Gerald Prokopowicz as an example of Centennial inpiration followed by positive transformation. There are other examples, too. An enormous number of people have been inspired by Bruce Catton, for instance, without buying into the Nevins-Catton dogmas.

Recently I picked up a copy of Burton's Extraordinary Circumstances and read the acknowledgements . It was an honor roll of Centennial authors: the snide, the dogmatic, the obtuse, the suppressors of sources, the avoiders of contradiction, the authors of career killing book reviews. To store staff, I must have looked like I was having an asthma attack. And yet leafing through the book, I found Burton himself straining to be fair, openminded, and clearheaded. Bravo - I'm going to enjoy reading this.

So, to have been inspired by Centennialists is not necessarily to be a Centennialist, to follow their doctrines, nor to have acquired their dark penchant for control of the discussion.

Andy brings up the name of Gary Gallagher in connection with Gerald Prokopowicz's. This is a little confusing. If Gallagher is intended to represent the continuation of American Heritage thoughts and writings into the present day, good - point taken. But if he is supposed to represent Centennial inspiration followed by new directions in research and publishing
I would like to disagree and ask that his name not be linked to Prokopowicz's in any career typologies.

Let me further raise here the possibility (I could be wrong) that in Gallagher's management of his editorial duties at UNC Press and in his assembly of various anthologies we can discern shadows of partisanship, for it is very difficult to find in these publications views contrary to Gallagher's or to that of the 1960-1965 status quo. (There is the exception of Brooks Simpson's essay in Gallagher's second Antietam collection, but that is "too late, too little.")

If you are anthologizing articles on the Maryland Campaign, for instance, and you are excluding work by Harsh, Clemens, Reese, and others, you have created a doctrinal artifact on the first try. On your second try, you have issued a very public, very flamboyant statement. Not a scholarly one, either.

Obviously, I object to the Centennialists relying on literary technique to solve historical questions; I despise their selective use of sources; I don't appreciate being told how to think about Civil War controversies; I cringe at the incessant invitations to emotionally identify with historical figures; and I don't appreciate cheap, wise-guy comments about generals or politicians in my historical reading.

Having said that, please understand that I have no quarrel with anyone's enjoyment of any Civil War literature - this blog is a record of my own dislikes and likes strongly stated, even overstated. Further, liking this or that author does not prevent anyone from doing good work or honoring my own values of research, curiosity, and flexibility.

The very "spirit of the times" demands openess and inquiry so as to doom rigid, unchanging doctrines. A literary and historical milieu like than engineered by Allan Nevins then is impossible today. ACW publishing is breaking wide open and (paradoxically) much of the change is coming from people inspired by American Heritage and its stable of Civil War writers.

More power to the new thinkers inspired by Centennial work ... and grudging thanks to those who inspired them.

The South's Civil War

We're all familiar with Mississippi's Free State of Jones, but I had not previously heard of Florida's Independent Union Rangers.


Confederate AWOLs: the glass is half full

The idea that the AOP enjoyed more coherence and less straggling or desertion than the ANV is widespread but counterintuitive. Saving the matter of numbers for a later post, let's first apply some general observations and reasoning.

Management of the AWOL problem - Here's a question; notice your "gut instinct" in answering it.

Which Civil War side's high field command, Union or Rebel, best matches the statements below:

* Mindful of the AWOL problem, distressed by it, harshly suppresses it.
* Inattentative to the AWOL problem, blase about it, soft on punishment.

On the one hand, we have the Jackson/Lee record of dealing with stragglers, worrying about the phenomenon, safeguarding evry march against straggling, even executing laggards. On the other hand we have Marsena Patrick collecting dawdlers roadside and returning them to their units.

The seriousness with which the ANV regarded straggling could have come in whole or part from worries about Union numbers; the anti-straggling, anti-deserter harshness might have exacerbated the problem; or, the commanders might have been making a mountain out of a molehill. The attitude itself does not point to higher or lower straggling, but to a commitment to fight it through the most desperate measures, including firing squads or hanging.

We should note that the Rebel commanders' actions were aimed at the reduction or elimination of the problem. There is not public Union equivalent to the record left by Lee on this, nor to the actions of Jackson on the march. Union commanders made fewer efforts, milder efforts to correct their problems. My bias is towards assuming less control of the phenomenon on the Union side and therefore more problems.

Content of anecdotes - In surveying the anecdotes about stragglers and deserters, one is struck by how out-of-scale Union stories are. In researching this post, I noticed Joe Harsh gave one example to support his claim of higher ANV straggling rates. IIRC, a small party of three or four rebels announced to their company that they were going to the rear to brew coffee or cook rations as a battle was pending. At the end of the day (and fighting) they rejoined their unit.

Meanwhile, on the Union side, Wainwright tells of a march in which he sees "thousands, literally acres of them [stragglers], cooking their coffee or sleeping around their fires."

Consider the the hundreds of stragglers who seized a medical evacuation ship sent to the Peninsula, the Daniel Webster; the chief sugreon then counted another 1,200 stragglers who had been skulking in the hospital who failed to make their getaway! This at a time when the surgeons counted an AOP present-for-duty strength of 78.000.

Structural bias - One kind of anecdote on the Rebel side that I should mention is that of various Southern localities developing armed bands in the bush, some of which waged war against local authorities. That speaks of a high desertion rate. However, in reading The Free State of Jones, one notices that the manpower in these bands also consists of Unionists, outlaws, and escaped slaves - not just deserters.

The South's ad hoc desertion - whatever its rate - had a structural equivalent on the Union side that is not widely understood.

Union soldiers wrangled "gray market" furloughs from company grade officers. McClellan or Hooker might have a ban on leave or a requirement leave be given by regimental commander or higher, but company officers could stand on state authority (however they interpreted it) and give furloughs at will. Equipped with these dubious passes, soldiers had only to finagle their way past those few checkpoints answering to a McClellan or Hooker and they were "home free" with "legal" authorization and full documentation. Moreover, these getaway artists remained on the roster to show up on the payroll musters monthly thus bamboozling muster-loving pop historians as well as their own high commands.

As we have seen, Lincoln attributed the AOP's low participation rate mainly to these furloughs and it would be interesting to try to estimate the dimensions of the problem. Surely, Hooker's rebuilding of the strength of the Army after Burnside owed much to recalling soldiers who had gone home on company passes.

In sum, the Union had a vehicle that facilitated absent with leave claims for many who were in fact AWOL. On the Southern side, there is nothing like this and army-level leave policies (like McClellan's) seem to have been strictly enforced below Lee's level.

In light of just these three considerations, I have great difficulty accepting ANV AWOL as being higher than that of the AOP.