12/27/2007

End-of-year publishing

New meme alert: Howard J. Fuller argues in Clad in Iron that the ironclad building program was primarily intended as a strategic balance-of-power play in the cold war against Britain. But it seems to me that in order for this idea to "float," a U.S. ironclad specifications review would be in order. Hope he has included one. Furthermore, the ironclad building program would have to survive the war and as William H. Roberts has shown in Civil War Ironclads, the builders were ruined, the relevant project office was discredited, and the Navy walked away from the new technology. (Just some initial thoughts.)

Old meme alert: Grant scholar Brooks Simpson once mused on what it would be like to switch careers to hack - I'm sorry, a popular - Civil War author. This occurred to me in seeing yet another reworking of his first book by Edward H. Bonekemper, a Grant partisan/essayist who knows how to milk his memes. Expect polemic, an absence of primary sources, and short shrift for the opposing view. I hope he's making loads of money - it would be a shame to contaminate future demand for Grant books for mediocre sales.

Older still: The question of whether the South could have won the war is revisted yet again by an author, Bevin Alexander, who has published a run of speculative history of this sort. From comments I've seen, this is military conjecture exclusively, with the author showing a soft spot for the decisive battle doctrine. The decisive battle question, if you even want to entertain it, would have to play differently for each side, North and South. Alexander sets the bar suspiciously low for the North, imagining, for instance, a capitulation after the occupation of Washington post Bull Run number one.

(These books are being released between tomorrow and the new year and I have not seen them - I am reacting to the publisher's information and reviewers' comments.)

12/26/2007

A career buried in Grant's tomb

Imagine a four-hour daily commute to your job as park ranger for Grant's Tomb. Imagine doing that job for 11 years:
... the stately, 159-foot marble and granite edifice was covered with graffiti, and the one-acre site was infested with junkies, frequented by the homeless and used by neighborhood gangs to stage dogfights.

Sesquicentennial license plates

So far, Tennessee is the only state to Civil War anniversary license plates. And it won't offer them unless it gets 1,000 advance orders.

12/21/2007

The bloodlust of the Civil War historian

Having put in a few bad words for Mark Neely's Civil War and the Limits of Destruction, let me now share a few moments of enjoyment.

First there is a general tone of exasperation with Civil War history which suits me very well. Not all the complaints rock my own hobbyhorses, of course.

For instance, Neely is unhappy with ACW historians' readings of the Mexican War; they have not incorporated the social lessons within the regimental histories that have been issued since the Centennial. Myself, I think this is missing the point of "What the Civil War historian needs to learn from the Mexican War." I'll save that for a series of posts.

More convivial to me is Neely repeatedly mining James McPherson for examples of ahistoricisms and analytic errors. I need to do more of that here.

Neely's last chapter is the starting point for an altogether new book, an inquiry into why Civil War historians avoid numerical analysis whilst they grossly abuse the few numbers they deploy.

Here we have a theme dear to this blog: you've seen it in posts on the surgeon's morning reports, Lincoln's ongoing sub rosa dialog with McClellan on desertion, on the use of round numbers in battle estimates, and in the ignorant modern criticism of contemporary strength estimates.

Neely starts off noting that no one has ever bothered updating Fox or Livermore - a huge tell on Civil War historians, I think - and thus"we can add to our 'to-do' list a future sophisticated statistical assessment of the traditional figures given for losses in the Civil War."

The current crop of deeply misunderstood casualty numbers, Neely notes,
"serve Civil War historians themselves, for example. The emphasis on unequaled bloodiness has become a way for those of us who write on the war to impress our readers with the importance of our subject. The number killed, usually put at around 620,000, exceeded the number of American soldiers killed in all our wars put together... It is a horrifyingly impressive figure..."
He then proceeds to take it apart, noting it is used "to sensationalize Civil War history."

He notes the figure totals friendly and enemy dead - producing a unique, one-of-a-kind aggregate.
If we consider the Civil War casualties one "country" at a time, then the 360,000 Union dead do not equal even the 407,000 Americans killed in World War II.
He then explores why people use the combined totals.
If the casualty figures are meant as a measure of tragedy, then they certainly are tragic. But if they are meant as a measure of the intensity of fighting, destructiveness, mercilessness, and hardness, then to combine the two [figure sets, Union and CSA] is unfairly to have doubled the intensity ...
(Emphasis in the original.)

He notes this is "a simple statistical fallacy." He also notes the tendency to take the total of 620,000 and extrapolate the losses against the current population base. "That escalation of numbers typifies the tendency ... toward sensationalizing results."

As a further deflator, Neely uses readily available statistics to identify death figures from disease: 225,000 for the North and 194,000 for the South. Suddenly, we see combat deaths combined for North and South total 201,000, not (he notes) 620,000. If we disaggregate blue from grey, we find 135,000 combat deaths for the North and 66,000 for the South. "In absolute numbers, then, the North suffered deaths equal to about two and a half times the number of Americans killed in Vietnam." [...] The point, put another way, is to show that the claims of "bloodiest conflict" can be qualified so as not to make the Civil War exist in some unfathomably violent category by itself."

Neely, looking for a relevant comparison, turns to casualties in the Crimean War, seeing an aggregated death toll of 640,000 over a two year period. "... the Crimean War generated as many soldiers' deaths as the American Civil War did in about half the time..."

He reaches a conclusion that we have previously seen in Nosworthy's Bloody Crucible of Courage:
Repeated assertion of the destructive nature of the Civil War may, in fact, only serve to remind readers of the provincial nature of American history-writing.
In a look back at his own work in this volume, Neely imagines he has put paid to the idea that the ACW was a "total war" and muses, "Destructiveness, shorn of the greater overarching concept of 'total war,' now leads nowhere. It is not clear what the cult of violence in writing about the Civil War now serves."
It cannot possibly be true that we are now at risk of underestimating the destructiveness of that war. Instead, we consistently underestimate many other important features of the conflict because of the fixation on violence.

12/20/2007

The perfect disclaimer

A publisher warns Civil War readers:
The work presents happenings from a contemporary viewpoint rather than how they were reported and retold at a later time.
It's like a microwave oven warning about pacemakers. Your preconceptions will not work here. Love it.

12/19/2007

Lincoln's communists 1/4

If I were directing a film about Shiloh, there must come a scene where Col. August Willich's 32nd Indiana, sore pressed by the Rebels, deploys its band which begins rallying men's spirits with blasts of La Marseillaise - as we are told actually happened. Exercising my artistic license, I would put these revolutioary Badeners under their beloved red flag. Then, I'd have my extras mouth a verse of that La Marseillaise for heightened effect:
Tremble, tyrants! and you, traitors,
The disgrace of all groups,
Tremble! Your parricidal plans
Will finally pay the price!
Hating (as deeply as he does) American political history, we can hardly expect the Civil War historian to break his high-speed narrative journey for a side trip down the tracks of contemporary European politics. As a result, we see through the window of our speeding storymobile, vestiges of information like abandoned crossroads or grown-over side streets when we hear that, for instance, Franz Sigel was a veteran of the Baden revolutionary war of 1848. This glimmer of information is then further obscured to be served up in formulae such as as, "he brought a reputation as a fighter and a liberal" to the Union side. An additional gloss is often provided on our ride down talespinner boulevard: "He fled Germany, eventually arriving in St. Louis, Missouri..."

Yes indeed he did. And as to the stops on the way, and what he believed and fought for, his political work, well, who has time for that? For Sigel, as putty in the hands of the ACW historian, prefigures the apoliticism imposed on all those American Civil War generals who figure as neutral characters in the Centennial narrative.

We must consider ourselves lucky to glimpse even the outside of the political dossier on Sigel. The inference offered by Civil War histories, when another German name is encountered, is that this is some officer recruited into an ethnic unit who eventually merited promotion or attention.

To get any glimpse into the lives and beliefs of Lincoln's German generals, we have to range far outside of Civil War literature into books like Exiles from European Revolutions: Refugees in Mid-Victorian England and Revolutionary Refugees: German Socialism in Britain. We learn there, for example, that August Willich founded in London the Communist League; that he recruited Sigel, Schimmelpfennig, and many other future Union officers to the League; that the League believed in a dictatorship of the proletariat; that Willich, Sigel, et al feuded with Marx and Engels (the same Engels who had been Willich's ADC during the Baden revolt); and that Willich wrote extensively on his beliefs ("We will make hell a well-organized union foundry.")

Friedrich Engels shared his scorn for Willich as socialist idealogue in an article called "On the History of the Communist League" -
Willich was one of those sentimental Communists so common in Western Germany since 1845, who on that account alone was instinctively, furtively antagonistic to our critical tendency. More than that, he was entirely the prophet, convinced of his personal mission as the predestined liberator of the German proletariat and as such a direct claimant as much to political as to military dictatorship.
It may have been passages like this one that pushed Engels' buttons:
...in the rule of private capital in the relations of production, i.e. in the basis of its own existence, also lies its own destruction. [The bourgeoisie] does not understand that the nature of capital has become concentrated and that only then, the fourth estate, the proletariat, will cease to be revolutionary, because concentrated capital can only become social capital.
In other words, Willich says capital tends towards concentration, concentration emphasizes the social dimensions of capital, and the eventual transformation of financial capital will pacify the proletariat.

Damn, now I'm dumbing down the record.

In any case, I'd have to put that little speech in my Shiloh movie as well. Union soldiers shouting over musket fire the terms bourgeoisie and proletariat. Our Centennial friends would curl up and die.

Meanwhile, let's look at some public records.

(This is the first post in a series.)

12/18/2007

"Havoc" moves to paper

Cry Havoc!, an attack on James McPherson's and the Centennialist's "inevitability of war" thesis, has appeared in paperback.

In reviewing the hardcover, the NY Times well understood author Nelson Lankford's use of narrative to undo the corruption of narrative:
Historians tell stories. That is their profession. And the goal of storytelling is to impose order on a disorderly array of facts, to steer events toward a conclusion that seems satisfyingly final, even inevitable. In “Cry Havoc!” Nelson D. Lankford disrupts the process.
The idea that "historians tell stories" is nonsense, of course, unless one counts that along with other items like "Historians eat meals" and "Historians rest at night." But you get the larger idea.

I think "What If" - as a hook - will provide the lever of Archimedes in Civil War history - one that moves the discerning readers off the world of craptastic pop history.

p.s. Harry has posted on this book and finds the "what-if" factor weak.
Each chapter identifies various turning points at which, if things had been handled differently, events might have been profoundly affected. The problem is that the alternative choices are seldom specific, and the alternative outcomes are rarely identified. [...] Another problem is the failure of the author to recognize that the fundamental difference between the Union and the seceded states were their mutually exclusive objectives - Union or Disunion.
I think these matters are worth a second look in another post.

Lincoln books - a roundup

Quite an omnibus review of Lincoln books from the Library Journal here. Interesting to see Gerald Prokopowicz's Lincoln book, which he and I discussed on his radio show, is coming out next month. He said he was aiming for the broadest audience and apparently he delivered. Library Journal was not pleased:
Prokopowicz, Gerald J. Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln. Pantheon. Jan. 2008. 352p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0-375-42541-7. $24.95. BIOG

Within chronological chapters, this book indeed consists of questions and answers. Unfortunately, the author's heavy-handed casualness ("Billy Herndon") and ripostes (e.g., turning down one of his own questions by responding "Next question please") will turn off many earnest Lincoln readers. Optional for public libraries.
The book is out in an audio format as well.

Savas Woodbury bloggers

Ted Savas does some nice reminiscing about Savas Woodbury, the publishers, on his blog. I still cite material from Civil War Regiments.

As for his erstwhile partner David Woodbury, he has published an intriguing snatch of correspondence between Stanton and Grant on his own blog. He thinks the exchange is mainly about evicting McDowell. I think it is mainly about evicting Halleck. (So says a comment - not mine - as well.)

Lincoln opera on the way

News from Louisville:
$17,000 [granted] to the University of Kentucky Opera Society for a new production that will focus on Lincoln as a young man in Illinois.

12/17/2007

Emancipation on Long Island

Even at this late date, people are still learning about slavery.

People like arraigned ... enslavers.

The wonder of Illinois agriculture

The Anything but Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) is going "to develop educational resources on the history of Illinois Agriculture."

And you thought multipurposing was just for battlefield parks.

The expulsion order was Halleck's fault

The Politico:
On this day in 1862, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) issued an order during the Civil War expelling Jews from a large region occupied by the Union Army.
[...] Grant came under the influence of Henry Halleck, the Union armies’ general-in-chief, who directly linked “traitors” with “Jew peddlers.”
Or was it Grant's father's influence? Why can't this be Grant's decision?.

"Lincoln was psychic"

"Lincoln lovers will be interested to know that Lincoln himself was a pretty psychic guy," said Martinez.
He could tell whenever a commanding general was going to be fired.

12/13/2007

The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction

Mark Neely has written an extended historical essay to ask what were the limits of destruction in the Civil War (military-on-civil) and how were limits set. To get this on a solid history footing, one pictures years of trolling through county property records 1861-1865, through newspapers of the period, and through court records, never mind memoirs, letters, and other kinds of testimony.

Instead of rigorous history, one gets here, as mentioned, an historical essay: impressionistic, anecdotal, with some broad-brush overviews of the Sand Creek massacre, the Mexican civil war, and the U.S. - Mexican War. Almost an op-ed piece, this.

The construction of the book is eccentric, so the reader should start with the conclusion, which is clear and strong, then work backward through Neely's arguments. (He seems to have worked backward from his conclusions anyway.)

Neely notices limits on Civil War violence set by the commanders' and soldiers' internal (cultural) beliefs, violated only in cases of racial hatred or guerilla warfare. (To the extent an essay can support such an ambitious agenda, the race hatred element is the least developed, btw.)

The limits of violence could have undergone an historian's treatment, as I said at the outset; however, transformed by Neely into a statement about the inner life of soldiers and their cultural mores, it becomes a difficult sociological or anthropological matter, subject to the exacting methodology of a more respectable social science than history - something far beyond what an extended history-flavored op-ed can accomplish.

Note that this book's social science problem - the inner values of soldiers - fell out of a non-historic core project. The core project Neely gave himself was actually literary: to take down the Centennial meme of the Civil War as an "unusually destructive" war - as being "modern" in its destructiveness.

The core project then is literary and therefore manageable with a literary toolbox. (Tom Rowland set a marvelous example of how to do this when he unwrapped the inane literary conventions surrounding the historians' depictions of McClellan.) But Neely mishandles the task. You are not going to remedy literary excess with historical arguments and proofs.

"Modern-in-its-destructiveness" certainly deserves an acid bath, being yet another novelistic Centennial history gimmick deployed to tart up the "interesting" and "unique" aspects of the Civil War while spinning a lovely coverall for those of the storyteller's "characters" who might be seen by readers as murderous or wanton. One way to manage this kind of problem would be to examine the passages in works where the meme is stated most plainly and test them as the potential novelistic devices they appear to be. The issue is not what kind of history they represent if they are not history at all.

"Factual" examples and reasoning to "disprove" historically what is at root writerly tradecraft - this way lies madness.

So Neely is here fighting bad literature with bad history thinking all the while he is applying a cure to the other guy's nonfiction. Moreover, in racing the rattletrap equipment of bad history down the litcrit highway, he has run off the road into the high weeds of cultural anthropology (where the cottonmouths of the blogosphere await!).

Given a mission to debunk the meme "modern-in-its-destructiveness," powerful literary tools await: "close reading," deconstruction, comparative analysis, whatever. They await the hand of the essayist as long as the work remains.

I'll read Neely's next book and the one after. They're always interesting. He's usually on the right track.

He's been developing a meta-criticism of the entire Civil War field. Now he should find a publisher with top-flight editors to guide him in this purpose.

12/12/2007

Civil War mindsets in cyberspace

If you agree with my Boydian premise that culturally the Army (and its progeny the Air Force) remain Civil War-era institutions, you'll understand the thrust of John Robb's new insights immediately.

12/11/2007

Bicentennial funding cut in Illinois

Interesting comment:
"The creation of our committee is partly in response to the fact that the state bicentennial commission's funding has been cut, and there remains an uncertainty regarding funding for the local bicentennial groups."
Meanwhile, CWPT is pushing to preserve 50,000 acres in Virginia before the ACW Sesquicentennial kicks off.

p.s. If you search for >>sesquicentennial "civil war"<< on Google News, you'll get a staggering 24 hits, about half of which are false positives.

12/10/2007

Union corps commands - a dissent

Reader Will Keene had objections to the corps commander posts presented here. The comments below are his with my interleavings in blue.

I found your "analysis" on Corps commander turnover
very disappointing. Examples:

- You give two date spans for the I Corps during which it was officially designated as I Corps, but the organization continued under McDowell throughout the time from April to September 1862, just under a different names. Thus there was continuity during this period and not the discontinuity you show.
I followed the dates given in Commanders of Army Corps, Divisions, and Brigades; Dyer's Compendium; and Eicher's & Eicher's Civil War High Commands. I didn't cherry-pick them from among the three sources - all three provide the same dates at the root of which are Army decisions on the matter. From the Army's point of view the Army of the Department of the Rappahannock did not equal I Corps, AoP. Keeping McDowell for that period as I Corps commander does not lower the number of changes of command but would extend the "life" of the I Corps to 733 days. That would increase the stability picture slightly by making the average corps tenure 61 days at a cost of violating the Army's view of the heritage of the corps. Can we agree that 61 days of command remains a cruel joke?

- Stating in your final entry of the series that there were 12 changes of command in the I Corps is technically true but tells us nothing about the nature of those command changes.
In many cases I don't understand the nature of those changes. However, the number 12 I view as atrocious.

You provided more information earlier in the series but chose to not analyze that information, instead preferring summary statistics without context.
I don't have the context to analyze the data - I present it here so that enterprising readers can get cracking on their own analyses. You have started on this yourself.

In the case of the I Corps there were only 4 permanent commanders: McDowell, Hooker, Reynolds, and Newton. Meade, Wadsworth and Doubleday (senior Division commanders) filled in during the temporary incapacity or absence of the regular commander. Thus your summary statistics makes it appear as if there were more commanders than there actually were. The changes from Hooker to Reynolds and Reynolds to Newton were due to casualties in battle, not anything to do with decisions eminating from high command in Washington.
I don't understand the concept of "permanent" commanders, where this comes from or why it matters. A change of command for two days is a change of command - to use a Wadsworthian example. A temporary command is paralyzing to the unit as no major decisions can be made nor plans drawn up; additionally however much the division commanders socialize, the temp corps commander is a stranger to the division commanders managerially unless this is his second temp incumbency.

Across all data I found only three instances of incumbency lasting for a few days. Given that the senior division commander would naturally assume corps command in the commander's absence, I don't know why orders for temporary command - if that's what thses were - needed to be issued unless the new (temp?) appointee lacked rank to command a corps. In which case, more stress on cohesion.

Incapacity and absence also create turmoil, whatever the circumstances.
- Likewise with the III Corps there were only four main commanders, with one temporary commander. Since that temporary commander had to step in on multiple occasions for a few days while the main commander was absent, it appears as if there were more instability in command than really was the case.
I disagree with this concept of "more instability than really was the case." I have been the temporary commander of units. I have been subject to temporary commanders. In the case of III Corps, it was not a case of a few days absence while the troops lolled in winter quarters. E&E count nine of these instances.
- I find it shocking that you would not see the difference between what was called the V Corps from '13 Mar 62 - 4 Apr 62' and what was called the V Corps from '18 May 62 - 28 Jun 65'. Two entirely different entities yet you treat them as the same thing.
I treat them exactly as the Army listed them - I made no personal exceptions to the Army's classification system, otherwise the whole analysis would fall into question.
- Again, most of the change in command in the IX Corps was temporary changes, such as Schurz briefly taking command on July 1 while Howard commanded all Corps present at Gettysburg.
I don't think temporary is stabilizing. The onus is on anyone to explain why temporary changes are not detrimental. As a former brigade and division staff officer, I assure you they matter, especially under stress such as combat.

- Like points made above, most of the turnover in the XII Corps is the result of Williams stepping in during the temporary absence of the commander. Banks (not included in your count because you seemed to have not grasped the history of the entity), Mansfield, Slocum and (temporarily) Williams were the only commanders of this Corps until merged into the XX Corps.
I did not name the commanders (making up the Eicher's XII Corps count of nine command changes in this post), so how could anyone possibly know if I included or excluded Banks?

Let me repeat that there is a heavy burden of proof on anyone who claims that three people can change places nine times and not destabilize a unit.
So, for you to conclude based on this superficial data that "The illustration we have here is of the destructive incompetence of Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck." makes the writings of Sears and McPherson looks good by comparison.
This destructive incompetence conclusion is a throwaway line that deserves a separate post and should not have appeared where it did. Where it is now, it bears the hallmarks of overreaching that mark the histories of Sears and McPherson.

We can agree that Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck can't be saddled with changes due to combat losses - so here the data perhaps should be refined. But these men knew that combat losses would be a tax levied on top of other changes made in the command system. At the end of it all, they were responsible for creating the conditions that would win the war, for the stability of commands. Every permanent corps change made by or requested by the army or department commander required higher approval.

The data, raw as it was, incomplete as it was, preliminary as it now is, seems to me to point to managerial failure on a grand scale. Further, it seems to me to be unique to Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck, and this war. Material for a future post, perhaps.

If temporary assignments should not be counted as changes - if a serious case can be made why this should be so, let it be made. It is fair criticism to require that battlefield replacements not be charged to the competence of Lincoln, Stanton, or Halleck. It is possible, through these adjustments, to arrive at better turnover rates, but in no case do we arrive at decent corps commander turnover rates, not even by the abysmal standards of Vietnam.

Her father's manuscript

Along with Paul and Drew, I too have become enchanted with a story about a daughter's rescue of her late father's manuscript.

Meanwhile, here's a story about what happens when you don't complete your research. I like the touch about alerting the relatives (who couldn't give a damn, one suspects).

12/08/2007

Black spies

This is an interesting but not deep article on .... well, just read the title:

Black Dispatches: Black American Contributions to Union Intelligence During the Civil War

Some tidbits I found irresistible: Butler's "Big Bethel" offensive was a pre-emptive strike incited by intelligence and reconnaissance; Pinkerton relied heavily on one John Scobell for order of battle information, troop movements, and morale evaluations; AoP intelligence gathering shut down abruptly in November of 1862 with McClellan's relief. (Not that it stayed inactive.)

12/07/2007

A new novel about ACW intelligence

This may be a trend. The new title. The less new title.

Disclosure

History professors need to begin complying with the minimum disclosure standards of the journalist, says Gil Troy.

12/06/2007

Meade's oblique reference (cont.)

Reader Bill Bergen writes:
I spent a day at the Point last year investigating the turmoil there in 1863-64. Stanton was taking an active interest, and there was rapid turnover in Point's leaders as a result. Tidball describes some of this. While I found interesting material, I did not find anything publishable.

Foner on Musharraf's Lincoln references

Eric Foner from the Nation:
Here is what Lincoln did not do and Musharraf did. He did not suspend the Constitution, remove the Chief Justice, impose martial law upon the entire country, incarcerate dozens of lawyers, arrest leaders of the opposition party and human rights advocates or ban political demonstrations.
Did he not suspend provisions of the Constitution? Ignore the Chief Justice? Suspend habeas corpus throughout the north? Arrest leaders of the opposition party and place them in prison incommunicado? To the Republican in the street, opposition to the war was treason and opposition to the incumbent's war policies were treason; hence 1861's Summer of Rage in which mobs were unleashed against the Republican Party's political opponents. To the man in the street, Musharraf included, Foner is splitting ridiculously fine hairs.

It's one thing to argue steps were necessary another to say they never happened.

12/05/2007

Rick Beard plans a Lincoln exhibit

When you think "Lincoln," do you think of race riots:
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library wants the public's help to put together an exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of the Springfield Race Riot. [...] The riot began on August 14, 1908, after news that two black men being held at the Sangamon County Jail had been moved. A mob raged for two days, killing at least seven people and destroying many black-owned businesses and homes. Just two people were punished by the law.

Beard says interested donors should call the museum. He says the materials will be in use from spring 2008 until January 2009.
Whatcha gonna do when "Fashion Knight" ends? Celebrate some race riots! Celebrate them right up until the bicentennial of his birthday: February 12, 2009. I guess after a few years, you run out of Lincoln exhibition ideas and materials.

12/04/2007

Meade's oblique reference

Ethan Rafuse posted some more of Meade's snappings, including this coy one:
By the by a recent oration at West Point has made a great rumpus, & I understand the principal officers engaged in getting it up are to be relieved from duty. The oration was good enough in itself but the time, place & man were all unsuited, and the whole affair a mistake.
The reference is to McClellan. The speech is here.

Brooks Simpson on Neely's new book

Some thoughts of mine on Neely's newest coming late in the day.

Meanwhile, Brooks Simpson has registered a few impressions:
I’ve already mentioned my surprise upon coming across a catalog description for Mark Neely’s The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction. Normally one chuckles at what one could call publisher overstatement, although in many cases authors have more than a casual hand in framing promotional material. In this case, I don’t think the advertising’s misrepresenting the book. I do think the book misrepresents current scholarly understandings of the nature of the Civil War and whether it deserves to be typed a “total war.” By offering a certain definition of “total war,” one can set up a strawman that is subject to easy dismissal. Since the term “total war” has been tossed around rather casually in the literature, this is an easy task. If one wishes to rest one’s claim to fame upon a rather clever dismantling of a carelessly-employed term, well, that might qualify for brilliance in a first year graduate seminar, but I think one has to do more if one is to advance understanding beyond that. We shall see.
This is from a post called "On my desk" and one would suppose Brooks Simpson's own new book would be on that desk but I see that Amazon has now moved the release date from December 2007 to mid-2009.

p.s. His aside to me in discussing blurbs I think pertains to this post (scroll down to 2/25/2004) rather than to my exuberant blurb on Army of the Potomac.

Update, 12/07/07. Brooks writes: "...that manuscript is in a computer, not on a desk. :) It should go out to the publisher early next year. I was trying to absorb moreof the recent work on McClellan and Ethan's work on Lee in the East, which will soon appear."

Virtual Savas-Beatie

Ted Savas has some thoughts on yesterday's post. Interesting also that Sarah has opened a chatroom.

12/03/2007

Union corps commands: chaos at the top: 4/4

Welcome to your new command, corps commander. We're hoping you can help win the war in the next 40-odd days of your incumbency.

This post presents the inferno that was the Union corps commander turnover rate. It focuses on those formations most closely associated with the AOP.

The data below represents corps lifespans in days as calculated from Dyer's Compendium; the changes of command are from Eicher & Eicher's Civil War High Commands. The number of days (Dyer's) was divided by the number of changes (Eichers) to produce average number of days tenure in command.

The success story, from the viewpoint of stability, was IV Corps with one commander only, Keyes. On the other end was IX corps - though identified with Burnside, it suffered 30 changes of command.

For a modern perspective, keep in mind that the Vietnam tour for officers was six months, say 180 days, and that this was generally considered extremely destructive of morale, institutional memory, efficiency, and effectiveness.

I Corps
13 Mar 62 - 4 Apr 62
12 Sep 62 - 24 Mar 64
Lifespan - 571 days
Changes of command - 12
Average corps command span - 48 days

II Corps
13 Mar 62 - 28 June 65
Lifespan - 1204 days
Changes of command - 29
Average corps command span - 42 days

III Corps
13 Mar 62 - 24 Mar 64
Lifespan - 743 days
Changes of command - 9
Average corps command span - 83 days

IV Corps
13 Mar 62 - 1 Aug 63
Lifespan - 507 days
Changes of command - 0
Average corps command span - 507 days

V Corps
13 Mar 62 - 4 Apr 62
18 May 62 - 28 Jun 65
Lifespan - 1159 days
Changes of command - 18
Average corps command span - 63 days

VI Corps
18 May 62 - 28 Jun 65
12 Sep 62 - 24 Mar 64
Lifespan - 1138 days
Changes of command - 10
Average corps command span - 81 days
Includes time spent in AoS

IX Corps
3 Aug 62 - 1 Aug 65
Lifespan - 1094 days
Changes of command - 30
Average corps command span - 36 days
Includes time spent attached to other armies and departments

XI Corps
12 Sep 62 - 10 Apr 64
Lifespan - 573 days
Changes of command - 12
Average corps command span - 48 days
Includes time spent in AoC

XII Corps
12 Sep 62 - 18 Apr 64
Lifespan - 585 days
Changes of command - 9
Average corps command span - 65 days
Includes time spent in AoC

Days were rounded up from 0.5 inclusive. The leap year in 1864 is accounted for.

This post makes no claim that the turnover rate for AoP units was higher or lower than for western corps. That would represent the next layer of analysis.

The illustration we have here is of the destructive incompetence of Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck.

HarperCollins to compete with "MySpace"

HarperCollins has created some sort of toolkit that allows their authors without websites to create them (example here).

I'm not sure how this is better than a MySpace page or the publisher's own "about our author" page. It won't be indexed any faster and given that the book is out, it is too late to build a web readership that carries over to paper products.

Additionally, as the linked example shows, the results are bad.

Booksquare says, in connection with this, "the truth of the matter is that publishers simply don’t have the staff and budgets to market each and every book published."

Isn't that mind boggling? Let that sink in. The web-tardic DIY author site will be the only "marketing" some books get.

She continues, "Authors must be active participants in marketing themselves and their work."

So this is a lame marketing gesture dreamed up by the marketeers so they can report to higher-ups that they've done something. It's a checkbox on the marketing department's to-do list.

Bogus.

11/30/2007

New books

There's a new George Thomas book out today that strives to offer "a more balanced, nuanced picture than has previously been available." It also seems to use fog of war: "Einolf depicts the fighting from Thomas's perspective to allow a unique look at the real experience of decision making on the battlefield."

Also new (this goes into our baffler files), a title that collects essays from "the best-known Civil War historians" in order to present an "alternative view" of the ACW.

Let's see: the people most invested in a meme are going to rock their own boats. Sure.

11/29/2007

Civil War cosplay (cont.)

Funny follow-up email from fellow blogger and anime guru Mitch Hagmaier on Civil War cosplay:
Hah! I used to run that anime convention. If the fanboy hordes we delivered to the Inner Harbor made your life ever so briefly more surreal, then our job was done.

In recent years, it's degenerated into an insanely bloated fun-house version of high school, and I got tired of playing bursar & over-aged hall monitor to a swarm of oddly-dressed, hypercaffienated teenagers.

If you want to see ACW-themed cosplayers, wait and see if somebody does a popular or semi-popular historical anime set during the period. There was Gun Frontier, but I think I was one of about ten people in North America to buy that series, to judge from their sale numbers. And the kids don't like to dress as random thug #2 (unless their costume consists entirely of a sign reading "random thug #2", which I have seen - lazy sod) but rather some distinctive supporting character or protagonist or love interest.

There is one guy on the artist alley circuit - he runs a fly-by-night manga adaptation company, or at least he did the last time I took note of him - who wears a butternut kepi. That's probably the closest you'll get to ACW cosplay - a Japanese guy named Bennett wearing a Confederate kepi & cross-dressing as "Sailor Venus".

[Shudder]
A Sailor Venus otaku, top right, minus kepi. Shudder indeed.

"Lincoln on Communication" - no joke

Does this make you laugh out loud? It's a DVD: "Lincoln on Communication" ...
How would you feel if Abraham Lincoln could speak to your class or seminar, your course on business communication or interpersonal communication? You’d be thrilled, of course. Now you can do the next best thing. By showing Lincoln on Communication, you will enable your students to learn Lincoln’s communication secrets, the tactics and strategies that made him effective at interpersonal communication as well as a great writer and speechmaker.
January 15, 1862 - Stanton is appointed Secretary of War; General-in-Chief McClellan learns after the fact. Lincoln tells McClellan he felt no need to inform the general because Stanton was McClellan's "friend." (His "friend" didn't tell him either.")

February 9 - New York Times Editor Henry Raymond writes to New York BG James Wadsworth to tell him the decision has been made to relieve McClellan of the general-in-chief portfolio and that McClellan will be commander of the Army of the Potomac only.

March 8 - Lincoln confronts McClellan with charges of "traitorous intent".

March 11 - Orders demoting McClellan are issued by Lincoln. He sends the governor of Ohio to to tell McClellan.

March 12 - McClellan reads of his demotion in the newspapers. He writes a goodwill letter to Lincoln. He receives a "shape up" speech from the governor.

March 13 - McClellan learns of and protests the appointment of Wadsworth to the Washington defenses.

March 15 - Stanton offers the job of commander to the AoP to Ethan Allen Hitchcock who refuses.

April 2 - Stanton asks a senator to propose Napoleon B. Buford to Lincoln as commander of the AoP.

April 2 - Wadsworth and Hitchcock report that the capital is not safe.

April 4 - Lincoln and Stanton divide McClellan's old department into pieces without informing him. His I Corps is withheld. McClellan must now coordinate his operations with equals in the theater of operations. He is also placed in the department of John Wool, who retains department command. Wool insists he outranks McClellan.

Back to the DVD:
Discover the most powerful tool of executive leadership: effective communication

Develop interpersonal communication by finding out more about Abraham Lincoln's leadership style
And may heaven help you.

11/28/2007

Come celebrate grumpy Wednesdays

This is one for Ted's or Sarah's blog. It's an author story.

On the day of publication of a certain book, Amazon and B&N give descriptions of the book but do not list its author(s). Meanwhile, I cannot find the book's publisher on the web. I post what info I have about the release on the day the book comes out with a note about not finding the authors. (This transpires at CWBN.)

One of the authors writes later to identify himself as such and to ask that the blog entry show his name and those of his co-authors. He says I can find the names of his co-authors at a certain URL.

Puzzling over this special task set for me, I go to the URL and see it is a publisher's site with no search function. I browse a minute, then write him back that I cannot find his book and can he name the authors in an email. He graciously replies with the names of the co-authors and directs me to Amazon, where they are now listed. (Amazon was not where he initially directed me.)

More authorial weirdness: In the first email exchanged, he referred to his book by a name other than its title. Perhaps it was the original working title; it confused my search efforts. In his second email, he referred to the title of his book by a different variant - still not the title.

I guess authors have as many nicknames for their books as they would for their pets.

Oh, you authors. Not as blackly humorous as this, but still.

Baldy Smith's quote

Reader Paul Martini has generously supplied the quote I was looking for here. He says it "came from Ernest Furgurson's Not War But Murder on page 235."
And it was Baldy Smith, the corps commander who had been farthest forward with his troops on June 3, who asserted years later that the concept of that assault -- "an attack along the whole line -- is denounced by the standard writers on the art of war, and belongs to the first period in history after man had ceased to fight in unorganized masses. Giving up the few advantages belonging to the assailants, it increases largely the chances of successful defense, and would never be adopted by a trained general, except perhaps under certain peculiar conditions, where also the attacking force had an overwhelming superiority in numbers."

11/27/2007

Over the Topps

I once owned a few of these myself. Strong on narrative, weak on analysis.

Tom McMahon did a nice post on them back in June.

"Cosplay"

Will Civil War re-enactors eventually wander cities in uniform to congregate at streetcorners "simply for the objective of showing off their 'cosplay' capabilities and marveling at the outrageous attire of fellow otaku"?

If Japan is an indicator, yes.

p.s I was stopped at a light in Baltimore a couple of years ago and became fixated on reading and rereading the ungrammatical bumper sticker in front of me. It was trying to say, "In case of rapture, this vehicle will lose its driver." As I untangled the syntax, my car became surrounded by jaywalking otaku - ever increasing numbers of otaku. Ah, the rapture has arrived. After I came to my senses, I noticed the hundreds of insanely costumed strollers were filing into the convention center for an anime confab.

11/26/2007

Holiday giving

If you are looking for Christmas or Hannukah gifts, you could patronize one (or all) of the small presses that specialize in Civil War titles.

This list is not inclusive but here we are:

Eric Wittenberg's Ironclad Publishing is well worth your time: I particularly enjoyed A Little Short of Boats and intend to buy Dave Smith's Pemberton book next.

Butternut and Blue keeps a low profile but this is a must visit for a copy of Tim Reese's High Water Mark, central to understanding McClellan's intended outcome for the battles in the gaps.

Morningside Bookshop is a book store that publishes a long list of titles. The quality of the paper and bindings exceeds the standards enjoyed in the heyday of publishing. My Baldy Smith bio came from Morningside.

The Camp Pope Bookshop is another retailer/publisher. The books look very well made and focus on regimental level material in the western theater.

Westholme publishes a lot of ACW titles, though it's not exclusively about the Civil War and it's larger than the publishers listed so far. I will be enjoying Stealing the General by Russel S. Bonds during my Christmas vacation.

Savas Beatie is like Westholme in terms of size and focus. We speak much here of Army of the Potomac, but this house publishes important Civil War books consistently. I'm a little bit off topic in my S-B reading currently with Indian War Veterans.

If you can encourage a Civill War publisher this season, why not do so?

Union corps commands - final installment

I am tallying the best corps turnover data I can from multiple sources and will make this "good data" the final post of the series when completed.

11/21/2007

Union corps commands: chaos at the top, 3d/4

Apologies, apologies - the citations are not at hand.

I gave away my review copies of Ernest B. Furgurson's Not War But Murder and Gordon C. Rhea's Battle of the Wilderness after the hardbacks came out in the same season at least five years ago. In one or the other - I can't recall which - there is a fascinating quote from William "Baldy" Smith (right). He said the Army of the Potomac in 1864 had reverted to a form of warfare from the earliest period of human history. (This observation does not come from his memoirs, BTW, in which the same thought is formulated verbosely.)

Given that Smith had a grudge against Grant (and perhaps Meade) we should nevertheless consider the extreme terms in which Smith portrayed a regression from the early war in which he was a division commander and later corps commander. He could have called Grant or Meade imbeciles in the idiom of the day, but he chose instead to express the AoP's predicament not in terms of failed leadership, but with an institutional metaphor. That is a fascinating choice and has much to do with the insane turnover at corps levels.

As noted previously, evidences of regression in the AoP abound and they are not necessarily about personalities (Grant and Meade) - they are signposts of an institution in catastrophic disarray.

Consider incidents of the late war in the East. I bring them up in the order that I encountered them, as best I remember, and they are but a sampling.

Charles Wainwright, in his diaries, notes on May 8 1864 that his movements as commander of I Corps artillery reserve in a night march were blocked by a huge column of infantry moving 1/2 a mile per hour. A veteran of the 1862 Richmond campaign, he says "Never before did I see such slow progress made." Assuming that night marches implied urgency, he sought out Meade's HQ to report the obstruction and found Meade and his staff sound sleep. Meade - this is me speaking - was relying on corps commanders to execute his orders, corps commanders some of which would reach the extreme limit of their experience after two months.

Charles Wainwright, Furgurson, and Rhea all note the phenomenon of snarled traffic at crossoads in 1864. To an early war reader, this is simply incredible. The AoP commander had fixed this problem in 1862 on the Peninsula with protocols to be followed anytime different units encountered each other at crossroads. The Meades and Hancocks had successfully followed those protocols in the early war. By 1864 all was forgotten. The AoP was now tending toward the popular concept of imbecility. Nor is there any way for Grant and his Western imports to discern that this was happening, whether the disintegrated AoP of 1864 was any different from that of 1862.

Wainwright, messing with senior AoP officers on June 26 1864, took especial delight in encountering potatoes and fresh vegetables. Another show-stopper for early war readers. These had been introduced into the enlisted man's daily diet on the Peninsula in 1862 following the recommendations of the Sanitary Commission. By 1864, they had devolved into an eccentric novelty in the mess tents of the senior-most officers.

Furgurson and Rhea quote from the unpublished diary of Captain Washington Roebling (photo right), General Warren's ADC, who refers to the AoP's 1864 night marches as unguided lunges into Egyptian darkness (referring to the Egypt of Mosaic plagues) in search of positions never reconnoitered. Again, to the early war reader, this is beyond shocking: the AoP of 1862 was led by engineers and ADCs in to the precise position intended for them. In the Mexican War Meade himself had been such an engineer-scout for Zachary Taylor; McClellan would argue his ACW reconnoitering engineers into alternate positions after his own, personal reconnaissances of corps positions. Egyptian darkness = archaic regression.

In his military history classic, The Wilderness Campaign, author and park historian, the late Edward Steere, is continuously (and erroneously) baffled by what he considers to be Meade's errors in the field. But Meade is delegating to a changing cast of characters with no institutional memory at corps level - they are the corps commanders du jour, accidental battlefield tourists. Meade's failure - if I can interpose here - seems to be that he imagines himself in some sort of time continuum connected to 1862 whereas in fact he exists in a fractured time-space in which all that was known in 1862 has been irretrievably lost and must be learned again. Grant, if I can again interject, appears as would a Martian landing in the middle of the Eastern theater in 1864 with only day-to-day realities to guide him towards norms.

Meade does not know he has regressed; Grant cannot know Meade has regressed; the corps commanders - the pounding engines of regression - live from moment to moment until their 60 - 90 days of fame is up. They are the time travelers who bring the AoP back to Smith's earliest phase of human warfare.

And so we find in Steere provacative section headings: Awkward Dispositions; Meade Withholds His Blow; Meade Miscalculates; Faulty Communications; General Offensive Bogs Down; Defective Planning and Faulty Execution; Blame is Shared; An Abortive Offensive; Grant Stops a Panic. We find observations like "It therefore seems incredible that a tactician of Meade's ability..." But it is not about Meade and Grant. Their share of blame is dwarfed by a personnel fiasco in the general officer ranks. 1864 is about the total breakdown of institutional memory through turnover in the high command.

There comes a point in 1864, perhaps I'll calculate it sometime, when the Union's enlisted turnover exceeds 100%. There comes a point in 1864, perhaps I'll calculate it sometime, when the Union's corps command turnover exceeds 500%. This is the point of certifiable institutional imbecility. This is Baldy Smith's earliest phase of human warfare. This is the point where Smith, in his memoirs, puts the cherry on the cake:
The great Civil War will hereafter afford many texts to show the ignorance of military principles and the utter absence of military genius but it developed no new principles and has left few examples other than those that serve for warning to future generals.

My word

Renee Tyree likes the word "slapdash" to describe the ACW.

(I think she means the Union war effort since "slapdash" is from Catton and the Union's war was Catton's subject.)

My word to describe the Union war effort would be "jiggery-pokery."

A challenge worthy of evasion

Harry Smeltzer has double dared me to read the new Slocum bio. I'm going to browse it in a bookstore and then probably declare myself defeated without a full reading effort. Until about five years ago, I was compulsive about finishing a book regardless of how trashy. That is probably how I built up an endless rage against pop historians. He has made me afraid to read the new bio.

OT: I used to drive by Slocum's Bowl-a-Drome near Trenton (NJ) wondering about the strange name "Slocum." One day, in the company of an Englishman we passed the sign and he burst out, "Slocum! That describes how you bowl after a few beers."

If you are wondering how pop history ends up as trash, Harry gives a clue on his blog:
As I began my research, I asked the advice of some folks who have had success in Civil War publishing. I was told that my approach was all wrong. Rather than starting from square one and just letting the information lead me, I was assured that the only way to go about the project was to start off knowing what I wanted to produce (an article, a book), and to also have a pretty good idea of the story I wanted to tell. Needless to say, I didn’t take that advice.
I notice Harry has some Sprague material on his blog. I once took exception to Salmon Chase being called his daughter's pimp, but the more you learn about Sprague (who looks drunk in the picture on Harry's site), the more the circumstantial evidence mounts in favor of pimping. Let's see, richest man in America; needs cotton to stay rich; ACW cuts off cotton imports but Chase gets Lincoln to authorize cross-border cotton trading; Chase protege McDowell is put in charge of inspecting cotton transactions with Secessia; voila! Riches! Daughter has the means to take care of papa.

Shame old Sprague had to get mixed up in gun smuggling to the Confederacy but Stanton did well to hush that up. Then he had to go and divorce the belle of Washington.

Kate Chase-Sprague, a recent biography noted, ended her life selling eggs and milk to neighbors to stay out of the poorhouse. Her father ended on the Supreme Court as a Democrat. Sprague ended in the proverbial gutter.

Who says the Civil War is boring?

(Photo: Slocum's death mask. Apologies for linking his memory with a bowl-a-drome.)

Go team!

The Adams - Jackson feud lives on. It lives on through the internalization of the partisan politics of that day in the heart of a history writer who conveys an impression of "slaveholding imperialists like Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk" (those are the reviewer's words, not the author's). The vehicle is a new book, What Hath God Wrought.

The reviewer just quoted, perhaps a rabid sports fan, cannot take fandom out of the picture: Adams is "heroic" and "Jackson, meanwhile, subverted the rule of law, ethnically cleansed the South of its Indians, and hobbled the otherwise burgeoning American economy by destroying its federal banking system."

History: all about finding and promoting personal heroes. People in history are fashion accessories that help make that very special statement about you.

If this kind of polemically loaded recounting of history looks familiar, the reviewer takes the trouble to mention his admiration for James M. McPherson and the possibility that this book, What Hath God Wrought, could serve as a prequel for McPherson's polemically loaded Battle Cry of Freedom.

Got a museum?

If you have a museum with humidity control, the National Archives would like a word.

Irony fails me

DVD Review: Horses of Gettysburg. 116 minutes.
... unlike most documentaries about this battle, which focus on the military and human components of the war, this film focuses on the 72,000 horses and mules that took part in this conflict.

11/19/2007

An officer of the Polish Brigade (CSA)

Soldiering for Glory: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Frank Schaller, Twenty-second Mississippi Infantry

This is a very well written (and edited) collection featuring the life struggles of a Jewish German Rebel officer whose early career embraced the CSA's Polish Brigade.

Considering that one of the co-editors here is descended from Frank Schaller, the tone of this work is refreshingly critical. Schaller is rarely taken at his own self-worth and yet the reader develops a sympathy and curiosity that keeps the pages turning. Well worth a piece of your leisure-reading schedule.

(Cross-posted from Civil War Bookshelf.)

New "Lincoln" pic

A man, in a stovepipe hat, with beard, photographed from behind, at Gettysburg, real real blurry.

Try to control your euphoria.

11/17/2007

It looks like the "potato masher"

I've been meaning to run this badly scanned image for some time. It's a Rebel hand grenade and appears in Never for Want of Powder. The pressure detonator has been withdrawn and is the pin-type of assembly to the left. In the German stick grenades, the detonator was the entire head assembly.

Unlike the "infernal devices" left at Yorktown, this model was designed to be thrown. Interesting that each one comes with a canvas strap attached.

Union corps commands: chaos at the top 3c/4

The note introducing this post is here.

June 17, 1964:

The attack this afternoon was a fiasco of the worst kind: I trust it will be the last attempt at this most absurd way of attacking entrenchments by a general advance in line. It has been tried so ofen now and with such fearful losses that even the stupidest private now knows that it cannot succeed, and the natural consequence follows: the men will not try it. The very sight of a bank of fresh earth now brings them to a dead halt.

June 26, 1864:

I found that the loss of this army since we left Culpeper Court House is very generally set down at 90,000; a perfectly fearful amount. Gibbon says that the Second Corps has lost thirteen brigade commanders.

August 2, 1864:

Burnside made no arrangement for his column to get out of his own works! Nor did any of his subordinates think of it. ... no arrangements having been made ... the men could not get through without breaking ranks or marching by the flank. Imagine an assaulting column with a frontage of four men!

Where was the common sense of the division and brigade officers who commanded the assaulting column, that they did not themselves see that such a matter was provided for? Surely such a lot of fools did not deserve to succeed...

- A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865.

11/16/2007

Interesting new books

Out yesterday:

Revisionism by Mark Neely.

Also, Diehard Rebels: the Confederate Culture of Invincibility.

11/15/2007

Union corps commands: chaos at the top 3b/4

One of the striking things that personnel turbulence does is that it makes units stupider over time regardless of personalities, seasoning, or common sense. In 1864, the veteran AoP behaved bafflingly compared to the rookie outfit of 1862.

Failure was not a result of Meade's brainpower or Grant's newness or the stressful dual command system, it was the inevitable whirlwind reaped by all institutions at all times whenever subject to massive, constant, turbulent change.

As an infantry officer managing the transition from a draft army to VOLAR, this theme resonates with me. As a "Vietnam-era veteran" who heard endless complaints about the six-month tour of duty in Vietnam, I know a little about the ill effects turnover. Lucky was the Union corps commander who lasted six months.

In the next series of 1864 posts, the focal point is not the shortcomings newcomer Grant but amazing failures of the 1862 veteran Meade; and it is not Meade whose personal shortcomings are highlighted but the institutional effects of catastrophic levels of "normal" change in the AoP.

Meade ran the AoP. Meade was a model, indisputably a great fighting commander. At the AoP level, Meade commanded strangers who hardly knew their jobs or him or their subordinates. His situation, managerially, was terrifying.

28 May 1864:

I do not see why we are so long getting at our new position. It was just so when we went to North Anna; starting the first day with a forced march, and then dwindling down to what could be done in a few hours. They talk about McClellan's slowness getting up the Peninsula. It was quite as rapid as our movements here, without the excuse which he had of green generals and an unorganized quartermaster department. I do not believe our corps has met anything besides cavalry today, yet our corps has not averaged over three miles; the Ninth has not moved at all, and the others cannot have gone far.

- A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865.

11/14/2007

Union Corps Commands - chaos at the top 3a/4

April 15, 1863:

In numbers, we are about 30 percent stronger than McClellan was in front of Yorktown... Not one of the old corps commanders remains: and but two of those now commanding corps had more than a brigade a year ago.

April 23, 1863:

The two-year regiments, of which there are near 40 from New York, will soon be going home, as will the nine-months' men raised last summer. It will reduce this corps nearly one quarter in number, most of the loss falling on the First Division.

- A Diary of Battle: The Personal Journals of Charles S. Wainwright, 1861-1865.

11/13/2007

ALPLM: multipurpose museum-type facility

Over at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM), management understands that the Civil War, Lincoln, and slavery are boring topics that get old real fast, so stand by for "The Art of War: Posters in World Conflict,” a show opening this week to run until May 26. The show will feature posters from WWI and WWII.

Give credit to management for understanding how fed up you, the public are, with all their tedious Lincolniana: they promise, "The ALPLM is developing a series of programs that will accompany the [poster] exhibition."

About time! Man, that Rick Baird continues to "set the bar."

11/12/2007

When caught, invoke the Goodwin defense

A journalism professor has been caught repurposing published student text as his own. As the search continues, so far six of his columns appear contaminated.

He has invoked the Goodwin defense, however. This consists of two parts. In his own words: (1) "Careless, I'll admit, but not intentional," and (2) "... never before have I been accused of plagiarism."

Meanwhile his newspaper editor is staging the tried-and-true James McPherson defense of plagiarists: "...the ethical equivalent of a misdemeanor, not a felony."

Cotton bonds

We touched on the Confederate trade in gold instruments on the Amsterdam exchange last week.

Reader Bob Fugate was kind enough to share this link to a paper on the Confederacy's financial dealings in London. Highly recomended.

Battle lines drawn from metal detection

Color me dubious. I hope this doesn't morph into battlefield tours and then historical accounts.

Savas-Beatie blogs

Two new blogs have been started at Savas-Beatie publishing:

* Ted Savas's "A Publisher's Perspective"
Thoughts, musings, observations, practical advice, and not-so-gentle chidings from an inside perspective gleaned after years of managing an independent publishing company.
* Sarah Keeney's "On Marketing (Working with Authors)."
Tips, insights, real-life examples, and behind the scenes info on what works (and what doesn’t) in the marketing world of publishing, based on working for an independent publishing company.
They have daringly included comments and email addresses. Don't make them regret it....

11/11/2007

Armistice Day

From the array of helmets depicted above, even the mousse-haired kids running Google know that today is not "Veterans Day," but a day reserved for the commemoration of the end of WWI.

As most of the world remembers November 11, the ceremonies on European battlefields seem to lack a certain participant, a major power belligerent ... one that is off on its lonesome doing its own multipurpose, cover-all the bases thing stateside.

Maybe politicians, looking at the record of that day, decided it better that Americans not remember the armistice:
"I met several subordinate officers who were wounded on November 11, some seriously. Without exception, they construed the orders which forced them to make an attack after the armistice as murder and not war." - Sen. Royal Johnson to General Hunter Liggett

11/09/2007

Union corps commands - chaos at the top 2/4

The data we saw yesterday (added, divided, arranged in tables) was the quartermaster general's own. It appeared in a book called Commanders of Army Corps, Divisions, and Brigades in 1887. That book was "blended" in modern times with another 1887 title, Flags of the United States in order to produce Civil War Battle Flags of the Union Army and Order of Battle.

There are completeness issues (and other issues) with the data, which is why I did't bother to refine my figurings. The net outcome of shortfalls in the quartermaster's data is that turnover at the corps commander level is much, much worse than summarized yesterday.

Let me present the quartermaster data for I Corps as an example. It starts with a unit history. I have deleted the ordering authorities for brevity:

Ordered March 3, 1862; Announced March 13, 1862 GO 101; Merged into the Dept, of the Rapahannock April 4, 1862; Recreated September 12, 1862 GO 129; Announced GO AoP, September 28, 1862; Transferred to Vth Army Corps March 24, 1864; Recreated GO 287 November 28, 1864; Corps discontinued July 11, 1866.
Notice the lifespan of the corps is shorter than presented in yesterday's table. The right way to do the calculation would be to count corps lifetimes in days, not months.

The reason for draft calculations will begin to appear now as we move into personnel and dates. This is how it displays in Flags and how it was calculated yesterday:

Note that Flags is counting Hancock's invalids, the First Veteran Corps, as if it were the legal successor to I Corps, AoP.

Now look at the list in Dyer's Compendium:

First Army Corps
Created March 3, 1862. Announced March 13, 1862. Discontinued April 4, 1862, and merged into the Department of the Rappahannock.

Commander: Irvin McDowell Major General March 13, 1862, to April 4, 1862

First Army Corps
Re-Created Sept 12, 1862, From 3d Army Corps, Army of Virginia, Discontinued March 24, 1864, and merged into the 5th Army Corps, Army of the Potomac.

Commanders:
Joseph Hooker, Major General, Sept. 12, 1862, to Sept 17, 1862.
George G. Meade, Brigadier General, Sept. 17, 1862, to Sept 29 1862.
J. F. Reynolds, Brigadier General, Sept. 29. 1862, to Jan. 2, 1863.
J. S Wadsworth, Brigadier General, Jan. 2, 1863, to Jan. 4, 1863.
J. F. Reynolds, Major General, Jan. 4, 1863, to March 19, 1863.
J. S. Wadsworth, Brigadier General, March 1, 1863, to March 9, 1863.
J. F. Reynolds, Major General, March 9, 1863. to July 1, 1863. Killed.
A. Doubleday, Major General, July 1, 1863, to July 2, 1863.
John Newton, Major General, July 2, 1863, to March 24, 1864.

The invalids have gone away, the Reynolds and Wadsworth interludes are shown interleaved, which makes them clearer, and Hooker and Doubleday now appear on the list. We have grown the list. There is also much more instability than we originally calculated over a shorter lifespan.

Let's move on to Eicher and Eicher's monumental Civil War High Commands. There we find Dyer's list with additional names. I summarize:

McDowell: 13 Mar 62 - 4 Apr 62
Hooker: 12 Sep 62 - 17 Sep 62
Meade: 17 Sep 62 - 29 Sep 62
Reynolds: 29 Sep 62 - 2 Jan 63
Wadsworth: 2 Jan 63 - 4 Jan 63
Reynolds: 4 Jan 63 - 1 Mar 63
Wadsworth: 1 Mar 63 - 9 Mar 63
Reynolds: 9 Mar 63 - 1 Jul 63
Doubleday: 1 Jul 63 - 2 July 63
Newton: 2 July 63 - 12 Mar 64
Wadsworth: 12 Mar 64 - 14 Mar 64
Newton: 14 Mar 64 - 24 Mar 64

Eicher and Eicher break out Hancock's invalids on a separate list. Here, they capture additional turns by Wadsworth and Newton, too. If we regard Eicher and Eicher as an improvement over Dyer's and match the Eichers' changes of command against the quartermaster's, here's what we get:

* Recognizes only Keyes as AOP IV Corps commander

Changes at this rate engender massive dysfunction. Given enlisted and NCO attrition rates on top of this manic command turbulence, an organization could emerge from a war less experienced, less professional, and less capable than when it set off on its first campaign. Some testimony about regression in the AoP next.

Joe Bilby's new book

Joe Bilby has a new book out today: Small Arms at Gettysburg.

11/08/2007

Union corps commands - chaos at the top 1/4

As February turned into March of 1862, Henry Halleck's strenuous efforts to supersede U.S. Grant with Ethan Allen Hitchcock (right) bore strange fruit. The pro-Hitchcock arguments so arduously pitched at McClellan and the retired Scott (and presumably through them at Lincoln and Stanton) had morphed into a project to replace McClellan with Hitchcock.

As most readers outside the orbit of Centennial history know, this development reached its final stage in an interview with Hitchcock in March of '62 during which he was offered the general-in-chief's portfolio and the AoP by Stanton.

Hitchcock rejected the idea of replacing McClellan and deployed a metaphor. His diary tells us that he said, in this interview, that an army was like a living organism and to remove the head of the army was to do irreparable damage the whole.

If we extend that metaphor we could say that the individual organs of this system are also terribly affected by such changes.

As with many things in Civil War history, the reader understands this with head but not with heart. The march from McClellan to Pope to McClellan to Burnside to Hooker to Meade to Grant/Meade is often viewed as a necessary evil. But to look at the tenure of corps commanders in the east - the layer under these chiefs - is to immediately understand that Lincoln and Stanton unleashed untold trauma upon their own cause - repeatedly.

This is what struck me perusing unit data in Civil War Battle Flags. It is presented visually in a striking way: any HQ (for corps, division, etc) is shown with a series of commanders and a series of incumbency dates (change of command dates). Where a reference like Eicher's and Eicher's Civil War High Commands shows incumbency dates by person, Flags gives a snapshot of the turnover by unit. The personality-centered view of the Civil War is here switched for a view of the institutional health of the corps and division formations.

The Flags information shows violent turbulence.

The first table below processes rough data I collected from Flags. It has been calculated and arranged to produce a multi-corps view (in order of corps designation). I rounded and shaved fractions to ready a quick posting.

The second column shows how long the corps "lived" in months, with rounding for partial months of existence for a corps formation. My bias was on the side of longevity, not brevity (and in at least two cases I did not bother to factor in brief hiatuses when the organization's existence was suspended). This means my average tenures are longer than the reality. The third column shows the number of persons who commanded while the fourth column shows the instances of command, in other words changes of command. Since a commander could be reassigned and then return to the corps, column 3 will be less than column 4 in many cases. The numbers of changes of command (column 4) include temporary command situations and are the truer indicator of instability than the number of commanders (persons commanding).

Note that two units stand out with longer average tenures, VII Corps and VIII Corps: for much of the war, these were actually departmental armies generally outside of the AoP structure. They were not affected by new appointments to the AOP nor by shifts stemming from campaign results. In fact, have a look at the same table reordered to show unit by tenure ranking:

The overall average tenure for a corps commander in these eastern outfits is a grotesque 5.16 months, with a laughable two months at the top of the instability scale. If we take away Dix's and Wool's VII and VIII Corps, the average tenure in the remaining nine corps drops to a shocking average of 4.3 months per corps before commanders changed.

This is a record I believe to be unique in American history. It represents a catastrophe in the personnel management of the Union high command.

11/07/2007

Movies and blogs keep coming

Scott Mingus has discovered yet another Civil War movie. Meanwhile, CWi has discovered a new Civil War blog.

Rotten bastards of the Mexican War

G. W. Smith: Stood by a soldier with unsheathed sword threatening impalement if he faltered while performing the manual of arms. Kicked a sergeant down a ravine for pausing during a march.


B. Bragg: Ordered floggings and beatings of offenders on the spot. Survived two fragging attempts by his men.


W.S. Harney: Dragged a newly-made double amputee out of a hospital tent to hang "the son of a bitch."

T. W. Sherman: Ordered a civilian camp follower (a U.S. retired veteran in his 70s) flogged with 50 lashes. Bucked and gagged the sergeant who questioned the lawfulness of the order. Bucked and gagged the next five soldiers who refused the order. Obtained a death sentence for the sergeant who questioned the lawfulness of the order.

From The Rogue's March: John Riley and the St. Patrick's Battalion, 1846-48.

Fourth generation warfare theory

Fourth generation warfare theory is going mainstream if - as we see here - academic publisher Routledge is distributing edited compendiums on the subject. Would the difficult, cantankerous Col. John Boyd be proud? I think so, as he was dedicated to the dissemination of his ideas, not to the ownership of them.

Recall that under the Boydian analysis, ours is a Civil War military (second generation) which has not yet reached John J. Pershing's 1918 idea of and hope for maneuver warfare. I don't know what good it does to talk of step four when you have not taken step three.

If we're stuck in 1865, we'll not soon move into 2065 as a result of some seminars and books.

Untangling the proposition

On the occasion of yet another article on the economic causes of the Civil War, let us remind the partisans on both sides of this issue (slavery vs political economy) that the principal cause of the war and the principal reasons men fought represent totally different things. The first is an historical conclusion, the second a personal reality in historical time.

I don't understand the confusion.

Vandalism

A memorial for Confederate prisoners who died in captivity in Alton, MO, has been defaced.
"Kids come in, try to have fun for an hour and it ruins the whole place... We've got pictures of these guys, we know what they look like. They're not just a number on a rock somewhere."