When we see beloved readings rendered as 3-D trash, our reflexive reaction is defense of our understanding gained from reading. This can't be the essence of the Lincoln story!
Oh but it is - and it is faithful to the story as currently received.
(Found on Amazon.)
One of the many reasons why James M. McPherson is the pre-eminent contemporary historian of the Civil War -- perhaps the pre-eminent historian of that war, period -- is that he knows historical truth...
... another reason why McPherson ... stands above all others: Not only does he read everything, but he is always open to judgments that differ from his own and facts that demand new interpretations.
McPherson presides over it [ACW history] like a benign deity, issuing occasional thunderbolts of disagreement but generally cheering on his fellow historians as they pursue ever elusive Truth.
Over and over again, McPherson seeks to separate myth and fantasy from fact ...
I was recruited by one author to do some maps for his Civil War installment in the University Press of Kansas' Modern War Studies series, about 9 years ago. I spent whole weekends on three difficult maps, got them to the publisher on deadline, and never heard from the up-and-coming professor again—not even in response to my email informing him that they were delivered. Eventually the book came out. No mention of maps in the acknowledgments, no credit lines on the maps themselves. No simple "thank you" by email. I had offered to do them for free—for exposure in the university press world—so wasn't looking for payment. Just courtesy. I had to write to the publisher to get a copy of the book.How awesomely strange, mean, crazy and clueless. (Do you think this is a story about Earl. J. Hess, Craig Symonds, or Michael Fellman?)
I have been reading James M. McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom", Larry Schweikart's "A Patriot's History of America" (the Civil War sections), Bruce Catton's three part series, and General Grant's memoir. I assume many of you are more educated on the Civil War, and are better read on its various subjects. What do you think of these books? Will they contribute effectively to my understanding of the war? Will they give me good insights into the essentials of what caused the war, how the war was fought, and what the war caused?Somebody got this fellow started on a reading list, selecting "the usual suspects" for him (with the exception of Schweikart). I like the fact that he's suspicious of these authors after starting his reading.
I'm also interested in a study of the relationship between the philosophy (the ideology) of the time, and how it motivated the start of the war and the actions of the generals in the war. I've studied a bit, and writers usually have used the terminology of Whig, Know-Nothing, Republican, Democrat, etc. These party names don't tell me much about the uniting and fundamental ideology of each side, and how these ideologies lead men to take cerain actions. Sometimes the constant switching of parties and party titles and party ideology is just plain confusing. Is their a book particularly devoted to explaining these things...I felt compelled to answer the second post at length:
Why not start with The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, a great introduction to the parties leading up to the ACW with plenty of background on the pre-ACW activities of major personalities of the war? Then, when you go to a McPherson or Catton, and they mention the name of a political personality, you'll have the full dossier.There's lots more here.
"As always, all our calculations are based on shipped-and-billed figures supplied by publishers ... These figures reflect only 2005 sales, and publishers were instructed not to include book club and overseas transactions. We also asked publishers to take into account returns through January 31; it would be safe to surmise that not all did.As we shall see.
Never mind the blurry typography, you get the idea: cumbersome. Also, just as in Civil War literature, the political is missing. It's a closed loop between the decisionmaker (secretary off to the top right corner) and his huge input feed.
Yes, the secretary is a political appointee, but this scheme imagines strategy decisions being made away from political influences (Congress, the president, the press).
If Lincoln taught us anything at all it is that political leaders will never, ever set strategy during war waged by a republic. The contingency-loving politico understands, in a way few Civil War readers grasp, that strategy commits resources now to events later in a constraining way; strategy is measurable, meaning the policymaker will be held to a standard and graded; strategy marches to a timeline oblivious to changing political will and fortune; strategy solicits the public's support on specifics, much more difficult to secure than public support for general principles; strategy is a very dangerous political trap for the politician-in-chief.
We don't find Lincoln reviewing and approving strategy, despite the material submitted to him by McClellan and Grant. What we find is presidential approval (or rejection) of specific operations of limited scope and duration. That is, we find political pragmatism driving operations within a limited window of opportunity. As Archer Jones has suggested, the optimal outcome in Lincoln's concept of war was a series of victories generating ever larger headlines thus increasing political support for the GOP while sapping enemy and Democratic Party support. It would not matter where the victories occurred, nor in what geographic sequence, nor need they be associated with any military concept.
Take this political conception of war to an extreme and understand that the ACW could have been fought entirely in Antarctica and won there based on glowing newspaper coverage. You would not need strategy or geography, just a series of encounters that could be "won" in newspaper terms and broadcast as victories. The loser, in headline terms, would have been voted out of office. That is something like what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan even now. You have a military that cannot devise a strategy, or make a case for one, and you have a political class with no use for strategy, which however inspired works against expediency (which is a higher value in political terms).
Of strategy in the Civil War, there was none. Of strategy in the future, there shall be none.
Some ideas will always be bruited about but no national strategy. If WWII appears rich in U.S. geostrategy - an exception to this rule - it is an illusion, a post-facto stitch-up of ad hoc decisions taken as situations put decisions within reach. So it will ever be. Kings and dictators may have strategies, republics will not.
The SecDef (SecWar) is therefore always more in need of politcal decisionmaking machinery than strategy vetting processes. Politics is where Cameron went wrong, anyway.
The diagram comes from a proposal from these people. (Click link to read the whitepaper and see the diagram clearly.)
* 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
* 42% of college graduates never read another book.
* 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
* Only 32% of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore.
* Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.
* 2002: 37% of the books sent to stores were returned.
... committed to "alignment, synchronicity, spatial management, and the micromanagement of undertrained subordinates" and all new technology is put at the service of these values.In terms of tactics, this second generation warfare culture is committed to the artillery (or air power) destroying and the infantry occupying as it was in the days of Verdun. Under our current WWI/2GW approach, moreover, the infantry is a 19th Century militia in terms of capability, reliability, and fragility*. It polices the streets, it occupies bombed terrain, it awaits the foe behind earthworks, it is never out of supporting range. Unlike 19th Century militia, however, it is rarely entrusted with live ammunition or discretion in using it.
"... general purpose forces, operating with deliberate dispersion, where necessary and tactically prudent, and decentralized decision-making consistent with commander's intent to achieve advantages over an enemy in time and space. Distributed operations relies on the ability and judgment of Marines at every level..."This does not point to a return to older light infantry doctrines to me but to temporary suspension of the requirements of strict control at the highest levels and synchronicity with all surrounding forces. Problem: under current norms, "decentralized decision-making" could mean that full colonels should boss tiny squads instead of generals bossing them. Look at the quote with my additions:
"... general purpose forces [infantry], operating with deliberate dispersion [patrols, pickets, outposts, ambushes, recon], where necessary and tactically prudent [temporarily permitted by the brass], and [exercising] decentralized decision-making consistent with commander's intent to achieve advantages over an enemy in time and space [not letting the enemy get away while awaiting approval to shoot]. Distributed operations relies on the ability and judgment of Marines at every level..." [Not just the Pentagon level.]Is this even a tiny step forward out of the 19th Century or is it random noise?
Drew Gilpin Faust argues that coming to a fuller understanding of southern thought during the Civil War period offers a valuable refraction of the essential assumptions on which the Old South and the Confederacy were built. She shows the benefits of exploring Confederate nationalism “as the South’s commentary upon itself, as its effort to represent southern culture to the world at large, to history, and perhaps most revealingly, to its own people.”That is the most Voegelinian statement I have read in the last five years. History as understanding a people's representation of itself to itself in the midst of an epochal crisis. That breaks the Voegelin meter.
This expansion of the war discourse has also opened the war discourse to colonization by other intellectual discourses. In my analysis, at least on an intellectual level, these other discourses are more mature, that is to say developed with greater rigor, than the discourse of war.Yes.
Due to the increasing number of Civil War blogs, and the practicalities of devoting the time necessary for a full weekly review of each, we are establishing a blogroll to be found in the uppermost box in the column to the left. This will include sites which for one reason or another we are unable to accommodate in TWIB, or which were listed therein but have failed to update for a protracted period.His summaries have been excellent. Don't give up Joe.
He attached some compelling OR quotes, which appear below. Before commenting on those clippings, let me shamefully backpedal to say that I should have written that author Tanner makes a point of the fact that at no point in the winter march did Jackson's subordinates learn what their objectives were. But that he "wrote no more about it" is disproven below. Material in brackets is Will's:
You say that "Readers have erroneously written to tell me Romney was [the target]." To support this claim that the rest of us are erroneous and that you have mastered the truth, you claim that Jackson "disclosed his intentions to none once his winter offensive began" and "'Romney' never crossed Jackson's lips and he wrote no more about it after November."
How about that? We also have the model of Cory Doctorow (via Bob Baker) who gives away free e-book versions of his printed, trade sci-fi titles. "My problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity."
Suppose this person sits back, abjures all contact with, and all reading about, what the rest of the literary (or commercial) world is up to; forgets about, or rather doesn't even trouble to find out, who is flavour of the month this time around; ignores the bestseller list; ignores the small magazines, print or online, which consciously form an armed resistance to the various establishments. And instead of all that, just does the work, according to her own lights.
And suppose, further, that this person makes her work available in any one of the numerous ways which are now just a click away, my own current favourite being Lulu.com. Our retiring writer does not even bother to set up a Lulu storefront, let alone write press releases or send out review copies, or pay to get listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She just posts it up. And goes on posting it up, as and when she's finished the stuff. Year after year after year. Over a whole working lifetime.
At 0600 I arose from the warmth of my sleeping bag and greeted the cook boiling water ... He was one of the Afghans who'd listened to me tell the story of Gettysburg in Farsi during my previous deployment.