Decoration Day

All nations have days sacred to the remembrance of joy and of grief. They have thanksgivings for success, fasting and prayers in the hour of humiliation and defeat, triumphs and paeans to greet the living laurel-crowned victor. They have ossuaries and eulogies for the warrior slain on the field of battle. Such is the duty we are to perform today [...]

Such an occasion as this should call forth the deepest and noblest emotions of our nature - pride, sorrow, and prayer; pride that our country has posessed such sons; sorrow that she has lost them; prayer that she may have others like them; that we and our successors may adorn her annals as they have done, and that when our parting hour arrives, whenever and however it may be, our souls may be prepared for the great change.

- George B. McClellan, June 25 1864, remarks given ex tempore to a crowd gathered to see him at the Fort William Henry Hotel on Lake George, New York
The Dixie Victorious sumaries will start again tomorrow. My analysis of the book's 10 acenarios will be posted Sunday or Monday.
NEWS | Grandsons recall Civil War vets * Stones honor unknown Civil War dead * Black Civil War soldiers honored in Natchez * Union soldiers reburied after hurricane disinterrs them


They never asked the question, "What shall we gain?" They asked only the question, "Where lies the right?" - Winston Churchill

(From The Ben File by way of LegalXXX.)


McClellan Poetry Day: Scans like it's Christmas

SATURDAY | I found today's poem in a book titled Campaign Songs. It was published in 1864 to help McClellan's run for the presidency and is among the McClellan papers. No author is credited.

The meter is reminiscent of The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore which is believed to have been written in 1822; "The Night" appeared anonymously in a Poughkeepsie paper in 1823. There is some controversy over whether Moore is the author; the Livingston family, Hudson Valley patroons with a New Jersey branch, claim one of their own authored the Christmas verse.

This is not to get Christmasy in May, but to suggest that submitting poems for publication anonymously was more common then than now.

Here's one for Decoration Day.

The Veteran's Story

"Crack! crack! went the rifles, and sharper each crack:
We heard a quick gallop - up rode Little Mac.
'Twas "Forward my lads!" We went in with a dash,
There was cheer upon cheer, then a vollying crash,
A rush, a blind tumult, a shattering peal,
A thundered "Charge bayonets!" the clash of cold steel,
A sharp, sudden pang, and still clutching my gun,
As I fainted, I heard a "Hurrah, boys! They run!"

So the old veteran spoke, and forgetting how much
His lame leg would pain him, he flourished his crutch.
The twinge stopped him short, and across his scarred face
There wrinkled a something, half smile, half grimace.


Military reform, now and then: the majors speak

I have read through (several times now) a fascinating document from 1999 and the late Clinton presidency: it's a summary of interviews conducted with 760 mid-career army officers (majors and a few lieutenenat colonels). The remarks found in this report match up well with this blog's military reform thread. I have direct quotes shown in bold.

I'll summarize:

Theme: Iraq was fought by a Second Generation (Civil War) military culture concerned with centralized decision making, rigid hierarchies of communication and execution, linear formations (with an emphasis on preserving linearity at all costs) and synchronized operations.

[There is] overcontrol of what and how we think.

The Army has no strategic vision of its operational or training environment.

Theme: A Second Generation (Civil War) Army, such as the one we have now, will always use technology for Second Generation ends (increased centralized control, more dressing of the ranks, more synchronization, alignment, oversight, information generation.)

We are field grade officers and we are still treated like privates.

PowerPoint and the computer has only allowed higher level commanders to control and micromanage more.

[Generals are] Monitor Watchers...

Micromanagement: a killer on the front line...

Theme: A professional army will lack the warrior ethos of a civilian army.

Warrior ethos [is] disappearing.

...Senior officers are out of touch...

We need a complete revision of how and who we recruit. For example, the Army continues to entice young men and women with quantitative rewards...

Theme: The Civil War victory of the professionals has led to "too much professionalism," which results in ticket-punching, job-hopping, focus on material rewards, and a caste system.

"... we reward officers who follow a rigidly prescribed path to success; being innovative will get you fired..."

There is no socialization as a unit.

... because senior leaders are devoted to micromanagement and their own career advancement they spend most of their time avoiding mistakes...

Top-down loyalty DOES NOT EXIST.

Theme: Combat is the true sort criteria for merit; an army led by staff men cannot function rationally in battle.

Seniors [generals] MUST set the example.

There seems to be an alarming number of bad leaders out there.

[There is a] Deteriorating trust in senior leadership.

... treating soldiers like pieces of meat...

Senior officers must stand up and be counted.

The Army leadership is out of touch, not trusted.

[This] is an administrative Army ... not tactical.

Setting aside the matter of blog themes, there are a number of comments that resonate with Civil War echoes:

[The] Army is a 'who you know' society...

We must get our politicians more involved [in recruiting].

Perceived lack of respect of the [Clinton] Administration for the military is debilitating.

Are they [generals] more concerned with pleasing the civilian leadership at the expense of the Army?

Take note of this one: "Readiness reporting - absolute lies!" I would add "Civil War strength reporting and muster rolls - absolute lies!" Here's another: "Relative depravity perception [of generals]." Sounds like a Sickles or Butler problem has jumped the divide between political apointees and academy graduates

The Civil War book that started us down this road is linked here.

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 5, Johnston manages the war in the west

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we're going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). I'll compile my comments on the scenarios and post them Sunday. (Note that the title of this post is a link to the book description on Amazon.)

Chapter 5. "We Will Water Our Horses in the Mississippi"

A.S. Johnston is wounded at Shiloh, but thanks to prompt medical attention he survives and ends his convalescence a year later - in time to take command of Pemberton and Joe Johnston at Vicksburg. A.S. Johnston succeeds in making them work in tandem. When Grant crosses the Mississippi, Johnston forces Loring to attack. Grant's immediate defeat opens the door to a Rebel counteroffensive in the west.Meanwhile, five brigades from Johnston's briagde travel east to help Lee with an offensive after Chancellorsville.

The dual defeats of Chancellorsville and Vicksburg strengthens peace sentiment in the North.

Lee wages a "careful" campaign that culminates at Gettysburg and his additional strength guarantees victory in Pennsylvania. (The war's end is alluded to but not described after this point.)

Monday: Stuart's cavalry sticks with the ANV to deliver victory at Gettysburg.
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We'll revisit the thread "Military reform, now and then" with a posting tomorrow.

Civil War medicine scares us

... and then we read,

Drug causing GIs permanent brain damage

There are multiple preventives available for malaria; yes, restocking Army drug inventories would be a pain, but make your case for using Lariam. Don't put an Army doctor in front of microphones and have him say, "we don't think it is as big a problem as has been made out."

How big of a problem is it, then? Guess what? "... the Army announced it will study possible Lariam side effects, including suicide, as a result of the controversy." So they don't really know. "The study could take up to two years, according to William Winkerwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs."

A political amateur general from the ACW would just change the medicine. Today's professionals take a different approach.

The Confederate supply system

survived the Civil War and is now trying to deliver ammunition to Iraq. Will we be hearing about the superiority of the bayonet soon?

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 4, Lee finds McClellan's orders

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we're going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). I'll compile my comments on the scenarios and post them Sunday. (Note that the title of this post is a link to the book description on Amazon.)

Chapter 4. "When the Bottom Fell Out"

Lee invades Maryland after defeating Pope. McClellan advancing west from the capital loses a detailed report to Halleck. Lee finds this. McClellan's IX Corps is interecepted in Frederick and Burnside is defeated in detail. The press reports that the entire field army has been defeated. McClellan moves into position to block an advance up the Cumberland Valley. Political pressure forces him to break up the field army to protect various presitgious targets. Lee moves into Pennsylvania, living off the land. "This marked the end of major military operations in the east." McClellan is relieved, replaced in field command by Halleck. European powers offer mediation: Davis accepts, Lincoln rejects after deliberation. The financial panic that set in after Frederick continues. Democrats in Congress authorize Lincoln to seek peace with the CSA. After the financial crisis worsens, Lincoln comes around and agrees to a mediated settlement with Davis by August, 1863.

Tomorrow: A.S. Johnston survives his wounds to manage the war in the west.
NEWS | Group will rededicate Andersonville prison statue * 1856 Virginia mansion for sale, was Stonewall's HQ * Parks Group Reminds Public, Elected Officials to Preserve American History


Format change

I'm going with a cleaner and easier-to-read layout. The bluish haze made reading a little harder than it should have been. This is boring but gets the job done better. Regrets for confusion, if any.

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 3, Lee fools McClellan

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we're going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). I'll compile my comments on the scenarios and post them Sunday. (Note that the title of this post is a link to the book description on Amazon.)

Chapter 3. "What Will the Country Say?"

McClellan assumes command of a field army after Second Manassas. Halleck is still in the West. Lee, invading Maryland, draws up phony plans and charges Stuart with getting them into McClellan's hands. The Rebels do not besiege Harpers Ferry but instead concentrate on the western side of South Mountain. McClellan believes in the false dispositions described in the phony orders. Franklin is heavily defeated at Crampton's Gap and the main body of the army is encircled near Turner's Gap. McClellan tries to rally the broken AoP on the National Road but then "cravenly" flees. Lee burns Carlisle and destroys the railways around Harrisburg. Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation despite these defeats. France allies with the CSA to enlist its help in Mexico. Kentucky is occupied by the Rebels. By the time of the November 1862 elections, the Republican majority gives way to peace Democrats who sanction dissolution of the Union.
NEWS | Hoover Museum honors Memorial Day with 'Civil War Remembrance' * Son of Civil War vet still remembers father: man to share story in Wausau presentation * New grave markers for Iowa Civil War veterans


The greatest Lincoln quote that never was

You see this all over the Internet, attributed to Lincoln, but not cited:

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing what they could and should do for themselves.

Looking for the source of this quote, I encountered this nice explanatory, telling (a) that it is not a Lincoln quote and (b) why so many think it came from Old Abe.

Try googling "You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift."

"You cannot quote authorities without sourcing or citing."

Sheridan's horse, revisited

Thanks to the reader who sent this link to the Smithsonian's Rienzi page.

While we're at it, here's a picture of the opera Rienzi being performed, and another of Rienzi, Missisippi (its graveyard).

Now if anyone can pinpoint the origin of the town's name, we'll be able to close the book on Sheridan's horse.

"Earmarking" historic site donations

This is an important story: "Legislation signed into law last year [in Wisconsin] requir[es] money donated to any one of the eight state-operated historic sites be used at that site."

You wouldn't think a law like that would be needed but consider the situation in your own state. Here in Maryland, donations to any state-run ACW site are managed by a recreation department. Does the money go to hiking trails, the general state budget, or to the park donated to? More from Wisconsin:

There was a concerted push for that legislation, and a state commission recommended it, after former Gov. Scott McCallum ordered the Wisconsin Historical Society to send 10% of all its earned revenue to the state general fund to help balance the state budget. That hit the historic sites hard, and they were already hurting from nearly a decade of declining attendance and revenue.

"It's difficult to recruit private donors and sponsors when they think the state will take the money away. Now funds going to the sites are protected."

When the lottery was introduced in New Jersey, critics scoffed at promises of funds earmarked for education. The state constitution forbade earmarking; all funds collected by the government had to go into the general fund. There are complex workarounds to this, and they involve estimating, then apportioning, and then a little sleight of hand.

If you are visiting a state battlefield it may pay to ask before you donate.

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 2, CSA Navy Triumphant

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we're going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). I'll compile my comments on the scenarios and post them Sunday. (Note that the title of this post is a link to the book description on Amazon.)

Chapter 2. "Ships of Iron, Wills of Steel"

Rebel SecNav Mallory demands and receives the financial backing he needs to build a navy. Rebel special forces seize U.S. naval yards in Virginia in advance of Virginia seceding, securing important machinery. Radical new ironclad designs are implemented in crash building programs. After Virginia secedes, McClellan begins an attack on Richmond by advancing on the peninsula between the York and the James. The Virginia attacks the Union navy, with historic results, then retires. McClellan proceeds with his advance, despite losing naval support, which must now concentrate to meet naval threats. While Mac besieges Yorktown, Rebel navy sallies with three ironclads and several wooden ships. After a desperate battle, Goldsborough surrenders the Union fleet on 4/12/62. McClellan's army begins to starve: McClellan surrenders the AoP. Peace is signed by June 30, 1862.

Tomorrow: Lee plants a phony order and tricks McClellan.
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Sheridan's horse

The great thing about the Civil War, as a subject of history, is that there is so much material available for research, all of it in English, and a lot of it online.

Which, of course brings us, as all historical inquiries tend eventually to do, to the name of Sheridan's favorite horse. Perhaps you studied this perplexing matter in school?

I had long ago heard that the equine Rienzi was named after a town in Mississippi from which it was taken but but was suspicious about this. Why would that state, recently a frontier, have such a name in the 1860s?

I knew that Wagner's opera Rienzi had toured the U.S. before the Civil War. Was Sheridan an opera-goer? (Hitler had adored Rienzi, especially the scene where everyone is giving the Roman salute and shouting, "Heil, Rienzi!") The likelihood of Sheridan having been overwhelmed by a German-language opera seemed remote, however. The likelihood of a rural hamlet in Mississippi choosing an operatic name was odder still.

Then there was the novel, Rienzi, The Last of the Roman Tribunes on which the opera was based. Its author, Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, had a runaway best seller in 1834: The Last Days of Pompeii. Rienzi, the book, was the eagerly awaited follow-on published in 1835.

Could Rienzi the town have been named after Rienzi the novel? The town website says it was founded in 1836. This seems to crowd 1835 a little to closely. And the website says it was named after the historical figure, without reference to Lytton's novel.

So the question is whether there was a general craze for Rienzi, the historical figure, in the pop culture such that both Lytton and some village elders in Mississippi could have tapped into that at almost the same time.

Hmm. The other great thing about the Civil War, as a subject of history, is that you rarely get to the bottom of things ... even something as simple as the name of a horse.

Alternative histories: McMurry's new paradigm

Thanks to Stackpole for sending a review copy of Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War, which we'll look at this week and next (see post below).

Richard McMurry's The Fourth Battle of Winchester: Toward a New Civil War Paradigm used an alternative history approach to make the point that nothing that could have happened in the East in 1864 would have affected the outcome of the war. McMurry's "counterfactual fiction" was bait, a means to draw a wide audience into analysis (something wide audiences have little patience for). The alternative history part of his book was a throwaway; the analysis was extremely impressive. Have a look at this volume, if you can find it.

I'll compare and contrast it to/with Dixie at the end of this run of synopses.

Dixie Victorious: Chapter 1, War with Britain

SYNOPSIS | Just for the fun of it, we're going through the scenarios in Stackpole's new offering, Dixie Victorious: An Alternate History of the Civil War (Peter G. Tsouras, ed.). Any comments will be posted separately and I'll post an opinion about "counterfactual" history at the end of the week. (The title of this post is a link to the book description on Amazon.)

Chapter 1. "Hell on Earth"

Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, is killed in an accident. (Prince Albert had been a moderating influence in the Trent affair.) Britain retaliates for its Trent embarassment by recognizing the CSA. Britain then demands both sides submit to mediation. Rebel instigators launch cross-border raids, using Canada as a base. Union troops follow Rebels into Canada. War is declared Jan. 20 1862.

France "immediately" follows Britain into the war and sends 10,000 men to Richmond. The Armies of the Niagra and the Hudson are formed from the AoP and invade Canada led by Halleck and Pope. Additional forces are scattered on the seaboard to defend against invasion. McClellan leads a rump force in an overland campaign against Richmond. California is occupied and declared, like Mexico, to be an independent empire. Grant struggles to conquer the occupied Pacific Northwest.

McClellan is defeated and replaced by Franklin. The capital is relocated to New York City. McClellan stages a coup. Russia and Prussia organize a peace conference and the country is permanently divided by August 1863.

Tomorrow: The Rebel Navy wins the CSA's independence.
NEWS | Illinois group out to light up Civil War monument * Artifacts returned to former Civil War hospital * Black soldiers honored with Civil War Trails marker


McClellan Poetry Day: Whittier

SATURDAY | This is something of a lazy McClellan Poetry Day for me because my work has largely been done in an article by Carol Iannone of the National Review.

In the period before the Peninsula Campaign, some well meaning person had booked as AoP camp entertainment the political activists "The Hutchinson Family Singers." This is not surprising, given the overwhelming preponderance of Republicans in the rank and file of the army, nevertheless it caused fights to break out and threats to be made and McClellan banned the Hutchinsons from camp evermore. Needless to say, he burned political capital in doing so.

Recall that the ethos at that time was reunion.

The Hutchisons sang a song, lyrics by John Greenleaf Whittier that characterized reunion as an unworthy objective of the war;

Then waste no blows on lesser foes
On strife unworthy freemen.
God lifts today the vail, and shows
The features of the demon!
O North and South
Its victims both,
Can ye not cry
"Let slavery die!"
And union find in freedom?

The lyric is here and the article is here.

Before the joy of peace must come
The pains of purifying.

An amazing thing to sing to the soldiers of 1861.


Where are the Civil War blogs?

The cyberspace equivalent of pinching yourself is to Google this or that hypothetical. Here's one I test occasionally: Civil War blog. There are a few dead ones around but Civil War Bookshelf seems to be the only live specimen. And so it has been since August.

This surprises me given the amount of pent-up interest in the subject. Case in point: the Belmont Club runs a few Civil War posts ("Magnolia by the Euphrates") and the author's email account blows up from intense overcommunication. He asks people to stop writing him on the Civil War.

(I don't post my email here; I dread the prospect of getting urgent messages arguing points from pop history, or messages defending the public's most beloved authors.)

Well, kudos to Wretchard for giving out his email at Belmont and a word to the people emailing him on the ACW: start blogging. Lots of room in this space.

Civil War 101: rethinking the Maryland campaign

Tim Reese says McPherson's Lawrence talk has got him rethinking the Maryland campaign. He's going to junk the nuance, the complexity, the sticky details that burdened his forthcoming book on the subject:

* McClellan relentlessly pursued Lee to Sharpsburg to return the Lost Order. Hey mister, here's your cigars!

* Jackson laid siege to Harpers Ferry in anticipation of the Federal government re-opening the arsenal.

* Crampton's Gap was in fact an elaborate scheme to keep Franklin out from under McClellan's feet.

* There are many monuments at Antietam because a battle occurred there.

* Lincoln released his Proclamation to encourage entrepreneurship in the deep South.

* If McClellan had had tanks he would have used them.

You are on your way to a mass audience, Mr. Reese, and if McPherson is not going to use his Pulitzer, I hope he'll let you borrow it for awhile.

Military reform, now and then: some numbers

Civil War joke: Have you heard about the boy who threw a rock down Pennsylvania Ave. and hit three generals?

Yesterday, LTG Ricardo Sanchez, who holds rank equal to Grant spoke to Congress, along with Gen. John Abizaid, who outranks Grant. They happened to be in town (dodging rocks on Pennsylvania Avenue?) and were "made available" according to a C-Span Broadcast that I heard yesterday afternoon. Each of them used the same very odd little phrase when asked responsibility questions: "As one of the ranking generals in this theatre of operations;" that phrase was, I think, supplemented with the occasional, "As a senior general in Iraq."

For ex-service folk this kind of phrasing rings loud bells. It is not too far removed from something General Groucho Marx might say during the battle for Fredonia: "As one of countless generals in a confusing command structure ..."

In the Army, there is currently about one general for every 200 officers. That's a very strong statement about professionalism.

Lincoln appointed 538 generals. There are now 655 Army, AF and Marine generals on active duty.

A total of 43 Army generals outrank Winfield Scott by being full, not brevet, lieutenant generals; 9 outrank Ulysses Grant by holding full general rank; an additional 51 Marine and Air Force generals outrank Scott and another 7 Air Force and Marine generals outrank Grant.

With 94 greater-than-Scotts and 16 greater-than-Grants in U.S. service, Jeff Davis would never have had a chance. Enemies real and potential, take note.

(Click title for link.)

Civil War 101 ad nauseum

You have been invited to give a lecture to the local historical society.

It goes without saying that the members are all history buffs and, like most historical societies, the membership is tilted toward mature, educated people. What are you going to say about the Civil War to a well educated crowd that reads history for a hobby?

Would you say:

* A lot of books have been published about the Civil War.

* The Civil War almost tore apart the United States.

* The Civil War proved the viability of a republican form of government in a democratic society.

* Many Americans and Europeans identify with President Abraham Lincoln today.

* Today, there are statues of President Lincoln in many countries.

* The jury is still out on whether the United States can live up to its legacy and its promise of freedom, equal rights and equal opportunity.

These points were actually spoken by a Pulitzer winner - James McPherson - in prosperous Lawrence, N.J., next to Princeton.

Sometimes a reporter will simplify a speech ... but read a report of any McPherson talk and you'll wonder if you have lost your mind.

It's interesting that this event drew just 50 in McPherson's own neighborhood. "Sorry Madge, I'm not going to make the event tonight; do let me know if the Civil War almost tore the country apart, will you?"

More on Cobb's home

It's not going to be easy to preserve the homes of prominent Confederates. (Click on title for link.)
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Military reform, now and then: Boyd and the ACW

In his military history briefings, the late Col. John Boyd had little to say directly about the Civil War. In fact, in an excellent 2002 biography of Boyd, there is only one Civil War reference in the index and that merely takes note of Boyd's hometown celebrity Strong Vincent.

Anywhere you model historical development as a progression through phases or stages, as Boyd did, your readers face the temptation of looking for forerunners of the next stage operating in an earlier context. So despite Boyd's lack of interest in the ACW, Civil War buffs who also study Boyd cannot help but notice "Third Generation" elements at work 1861-1865.

Grant (at his best): Quick tempos, forcing reactions, cycling through decisions more quickly than foes, developing and taking opportunities. (Boyd theme: getting inside the enemy's decision cycle).

Lee: Delegating, trusting, communicating general intentions instead of detailed orders; rewarded by active subordinates intelligently developing and taking opportunities; Lee then exploits opportunities created by subordinates. (Boyd theme: harmony from disparate activity by broadly licensed subordinates.)

Mosby: Attacking weak, underdefended but important targets; creating uncertainty, confusion; organizing military resistance in territory formally occupied by enemy. (Boyd theme: attack morale of enemy.)

As much fun as this kind of analysis may be, it does not lift our Civil War officers above and outside the defining boundaries of Second Generation military art: centralized decision making, rigid hierarchies of communication and execution, linear formations (with an emphasis on preserving linearity at all costs), synchronized operations, and the consequent inflexibility that denies winners the ability to exploit victories.

Recently, a friend and student of Boyd, William S. Lind, said that he was not convinced that the conventional war phase of the current Iraq conflict represented Third Generation maneuver. His comments have as much to do with Civil War combat as with Iraqi operations:

But a Second Generation force can also move quickly, if and when it has planned to do so. What it generally cannot do is move quickly in response to unexpected threats and opportunities. It does not have the cultural characteristics required to do so, qualities John Boyd stressed such as decentralization, initiative (and the tolerance for mistakes that must accompany initiative), trust up and down the chain of command and reliance on self-discipline rather than imposed discipline. Those characteristics are mighty hard to find in today's United State's Army.

And in yesterday's.

You can read Boyd's briefings by clicking the links on these pages. Start with "Patterns of Conflict."

Guelzo, Jaffa, Lincoln

I wondered, seeing this, if Lincoln Prize winner Allen C. Guelzo is or was a student of Harry Jaffa: "Lincoln's prudence, writes Guelzo, was rooted in an 'unquestioning belief in universal natural rights'"...

Then I noticed this:

Forty years ago, Harry Jaffa wrote the greatest book on Abraham Lincoln's politics for a generation; now, Jaffa has written the greatest book on Lincoln's politics for another generation... —Allen C. Guelzo, author of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President

There is some free Jaffa reading to be had at the Claremont Institute's site, like this rebuttal of Joe Sobran's views of Lincoln: "it was the secession of the Deep South, not from Lincoln and the Republicans, but from Stephen A. Douglas, that made the Civil War virtually inevitable — and brought about the abolition of slavery."
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Military reform, now and then: Boyd and the ACW

The giant of military theory in our time was and is the late Air Force Col. John R. Boyd.

Boyd's revolutionary analysis of strategic and operational art are the basis of a large part of the reform movement active today (and which we'll look at in the next posts on this topic).

In his historical survey within "Patterns of Conflict," the Civil War gets little mention: it seems to be a way station between Napoleonic practice and the new style of war conceived by Erich Ludendorff (born 1865) at the end of WWI. The ACW experience is a mix of first and second generation warfare in Boyd's system, Ludendorff inaugurating the third. Some of his students summarize:

First generation warfare reflects tactics of the era of the smoothbore musket, the tactics of line and column. These tactics were developed partially in response to technological factors — the line maximized firepower, rigid drill was necessary to generate a high rate of fire, etc.— and partially in response to social conditions and ideas, e.g., the columns of the French revolutionary armies reflected both the √©lan of the revolution and the low training levels of conscripted troops…

Second generation warfare was a response to the rifled musket, breechloaders, barbed wire, the machinegun, and indirect fire. Tactics were based on fire and movement, and they remained essentially linear. The defense still attempted to prevent all penetrations, and in the attack a laterally dispersed line advanced by rushes in small groups. Perhaps the principal change from first generation tactics was heavy reliance on indirect fire; second generation tactics were summed up in the French maxim, "the artillery conquers, the infantry occupies." Massed firepower replaced massed manpower. Second generation tactics remained the basis of U.S. doctrine until the 1980s, and they are still practiced by most American units in the field.

In other words, most American units in the field do not yet practice Luddendorff or Hutier levels of art achieved in 1918. Applying this logic, the U.S. Army is operating in a continuum with the American Civil War. Can that be a good thing?

Consider this list describing second generation warfare. Compare it with recent history and ACW combat:

* Centralized control and the issuance of detailed orders.

* Limited ability to delegate authority without getting bad results.

* Heavy reliance on firepower, applying force on the enemy's strongest points.

* Heavy reliance on infantry occupying positions won by firepower.

* Avoidance of complex maneuver and other potentially chaotic activities.

* Attrition models.

* Emphasis on battles, especially won battles.

* Use of technology to generate more firepower and improved infantry safety.

* Use of technology to improve command and control centralization (decisionmaking, order giving).

This is my own list, based on reading Boyd, and it is not a list any ACW reader will find strange or unsettling. The response might be, "Well, these are eternal principles. What changes are technologies and the practices that apply them."

Boyd's disciples say no: that when you apply technology with a second generation mindset (I would say, ACW mindset), you merely solve second generation problems.

Boyd's third generation of warfare, crudely summarized from "Patterns of Conflict", involves a few senior officers with small staffs directing numbers of subordinate commands, each working at its own tempo on its own self-directed missions, for a harmonized outcome.

An example is one of the German Army's WWI rolling, non-linear breakthrough attacks against soft points in enemy lines, with large-scale infiltration in depth and minimum molestation of strongpoints. In WWII, the Germans mechanized Ludendorff and Hutier tacticts.

Boyd once asked the German General Gunther Blumentritt how he could harmonize outcomes from many units based only on implicit orders, very little direction, and little communication during battle. Blumentritt pointed to likemindedness produced by collegiality, similar training, a common conceptual vocabulary, and personal knowledge and trust.

Some authors – not Boyd - have seen this interaction working between Lee and his early war lieutenants, and then again fail between Lee and his late war lieutenants. (Below the level of Lee's lieutenants, Boyd's model kicks in with a vengenace, where we see wing commanders directing individual brigades about.)

Boyd also asked Blumentritt how computers might have helped the German Army in WWII. Blumentritt answered that they would have been a major hindrance to success.

I was reminded of this when one of Boyd's students recently wrote that the Army plans to put little video cameras on the helmets of individual combat soldiers so that generals and colonels can have a better feel of the battlefield and more usefully direct individual soldiers in their single tasks. (Here's one instance of that application.)

You might say that this represents a level of control Civil War era leaders could only dream of; but a third generation leader would answer, "That is exactly the problem."

More Boyd, Boyd students and Civil War tomorrow.

Cotton speculation and Lincoln conspiracies

I'm not sure that two books constitute a trend, but I should draw your attention to Murdering Mr. Lincoln: a new Detection of the 19th Century's Most Famous Crime by Charles Higham. Higham puts McClellan at the center of the conspiracy, which is a topic we'll return to next week, perhaps. That's not the interesting part; what is significant is that, according to this review, the author has picked up on the motive developed in Dark Union: The Secret Web of Profiteers, Politicians, and Booth Conspirators That Led to Lincoln's Death.

Both books tie Lincoln's assassination to the through-the-lines cotton trade, Dark Union specifically to one massive deal gone bad. Congress called Lincoln's trading permissions "illegal" and in investigating his involvement discovered hundreds of permits signed in his hand. Quite apart from the assasination, this is a fascinating piece of Civil War history not normally encountered in the master narratives.

We find, for example, in the Library of Congress's Lincoln Papers online, a letter by General Frank Blair to his father complaining of cotton trading with the rebels being facilitated by General Irvin McDowell's brother, acting as a Treasury agent. This was at a time when Gen. McDowell was the government's high commissioner for reviewing and approving deals relating to captured cotton.

So, shine the light of pop history on this ... maybe the scholars will rally to do the study this topic deserves.

p.s. Here is another pop historian (name of McPherson) reviewing Dark Union while studiously avoiding mention of the cotton business.
Interesting obit for an ACW revisionist, one who believed the Civil War was fought by pre-teens: "Gettysburg was fought mainly by boys. Now it's reenacted by forty-year-old drunks."
NEWS | North Carolina recovers Jefferson Davis letter to wartime governor* Winchester hotel that hosted Stonewall is for sale * New novel tells of 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry * Nurse re-enacts Cathay Williams history


Military reform, now and then: warrior ethos

In the great struggle between political generals and academy graduates described by Thomas Goss in The War Within the Union High Command: Politics and Generalship During the Civil War, what we today call the "warrior" ethos was missing. The Academy graduates of that day, in their strivings for professionalism, did not model Indian braves, Japanese samurai or knights errant.

Oddly enough, that remains the case today, despite a very strong "warrior" subculture in today's civilian society: consider martial arts, Sun Tzu in the board room, endless books, movies, the ninja phenomenon, etc. In our modern Army, the disconnect between warrior values and military professionalism is pretty much where it was in 1865, which is a major goad to the warrior-oriented reformers. One of these, David Hackworth, was mentioned here recently. Another is the Navy SEAL LCDR Mark D. Divine:

As I tout the traits of the warriors, and am proud to include myself in that breed that is increasingly rare to find in our society, I must point out that not all military members in Iraq, or the US Military, are warriors. The most glaring disparity is with our US Army conventional and National Guard forces.

I cannot imagine an officer of my generation being so blunt about a sister service in public. He continues:

Those who read this from the Army who hail from units that have bucked the inertia in the system and have risen above the malaise – I applaud you. It must be a gargantuan task to shine in a broken, low-morale and malaise-ridden system.

LCDR Divine struggles in trying to understand how the Army could be in the condition it is in and offers that,

The Army has, incredibly, ONE General Officer for every 1,000 soldiers…Today’s Army Generals do the work of yesterday’s Colonels. And they are comparable to the Captains of our WWI and WWII Army in terms of their responsibilities and accountability. … A top-heavy structure will tip any vessel. The Army vessel is tipping and its masts are submerged.

We spoke about this yesterday, the idea that if no limits were placed on the concept of professionalism, then more is always better and there will be very officer-heavy structures (you can't get too much of a good thing, right?).

The charge that professionalism could produce a broken, low-morale and malaise-ridden system would not surprise the political generals of 1861-1865 in the least. One of the favorite motifs used to criticize Academy graduates was that of military paradigms taken to absurd extremes: too much entrenching, too much drill, too much calculation, too much strategy, and worst of all a very heavy restraining hand on the ardor of recruits.

I thought of 1861 when reading this recent Internet posting:

I have to help. I can't think about anything else. A few weeks ago, as casualties mounted, I finally said, "Enough! I'm coming!"

The Army has noticed too:

One thing the army has noted is the increasing number of volunteers who are joining up not for the educational benefits or the money [i.e., professional incentives]. Now a major incentive is patriotism. Many young Americans believe that Islamic radicals are a real threat to the United States and want to do something about it.

There was, in the Civil War, this great debate about the rightness of putting patriotic citizen soldiers under the stifling control of a military bureaucracy.

Aggravating that matter today is the fact that young people joining the Army for combat against the enemy have drunk great draughts of the popular warrior culture. This is an influx of fighters who are even less prepared than those of 1861 to submit their understanding of what is urgently needed to the Army's ethos of professionalism. Will they demand new leadership and a new ethos? It will be interesting to see if the Army, already in crisis and in war, will adapt to a new culture and new thinking infusing it from below.

We'll start to engage the deep thinkers of military reform tomorrow, again setting them in a post-ACW context.
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Military reform, now and then: extreme professionalism

Last week I recapped the arguments associated with professionalization and civilianization of the Army during the ACW, noting that the professionals won this contest by 1865, at which time all non-Academy officers had been pushed into marginal or subordinate commands.

In bureaucratic terms, this was a total victory for Grant, Sherman, Halleck and others; and although the U.S. Volunteer system made a brief comeback in the Spanish-American War, the USA retained a standing Army officered by Academy graduates. Generally, the post-ACW system has prevailed in wartime.

One wonders, could the winners of this high command struggle have imagined a condition of "too much professionalism?" What would "too much professionalism" look like?

If professionalism were taken to an absurd extreme, (1) There would be a disproportionate emphasis on all sorts of mandatory schooling and credentialism; (2) "Careerism" would have replaced patriotism; (3) The very "class consciousness" Congress warned against in the ACW would be visible and measurable.

Let's put some flesh on the bones of these notions. (1) Schooling, particularly missed schooling, failed schooling, and a lack of credentials would be severely sanctioned. (In a healthy system, one pays for failures caused by one's ignorance as one makes mistakes; one does not pay in advance for potential mistakes that might occur in the future due to academic shortfalls.) (2) The needs of the career would be institutionalized to the detriment of the national cause. Officers would be routinely taken out of combat assignments, for instance, on a development schedule designed to broaden them by exposing them to a variety of assignment types. (In a healthy system, war and combat are the highest calling of a soldier.) (3) The officer class would view itself as the best trained and most broadly experienced and might conclude that more is better: there would be a striking imbalance in the ratio of officers to men. (In a healthy system, an efficient balance between officers and enlisted ranks is sought.)

The military reform movement of the present day largely deals with these issues, which are legacy issues that developed from the professionals' lopsided Civil War victory over amateurism in 1865.

Yesterday, we saw David Hackworth interested in democratization, not in the Civil War sense of electing company grade officers and NCOs, but in the Civil War sense of broadening the mix of men exposed to hostile fire and then choosing leadership from that mix.

Have a look today at reform criticism from inside the Army itself. Major Donald E. Vandergriff argues that the Army's personnel system is the enemy. You'll notice the symptoms he addresses are those of professionalism taken to its farthest extreme, developed above. Vandergriff has at least one Civil War solution to the key problems of careerism and unit efficiency: the officers must stay with their units. They must go in and come out of combat together.

(There are more Vandergriff articles here and here and they are well worth your time.)

Vandergriff's proposed fixes aside, the internal logic of "professionalism" could be a runaway train not manageable by scaling back this or that program or practice. It may be immune, also, to a change of people at the top. The people who fought for and against professionalism during the Civil War did so with an "all or nothing" intensity; they probably could not have foreseen that the logic of their case might be taken to such extreme and absolute limits in the Army of our time.

We'll continue this thread throughout the week.
NEWS | CA cemetery restores Civil War plots * Sheridan's burning remembered * Rumsfeld recalls ACW casualties and debates during Iraq visit


Military reform, now and then: democracy and merit

SUNDAY | Pop culture's face of military reform belongs to David Hackworth, who tends to appear on television news during military conflict; the networks use him as a counterpoint to the sameness of message delivered by other military analysts.

As a pundit in the pop arena, Hackworth's reform message suffers a great deal. In the little soundbites that TV news deals in, there is not enough canvas on which to paint a reform message.

Hackworth's instrument for reform is not TV but rather an organization called Soldiers for the Truth and there, one finds a credo about fighting "a decline in readiness." The articles and comments seem to back this up. For instance, one message from Iraq says,

[There were] not enough rifles to go around. We were forced to arm ourselves with weapons from enemy arms cache such as AKs, MP5s, Sterling submachine guns, and Muhkas and RPGs.

Readiness, however, is about half the story. The types of readiness stories appearing, together with certain consistent motifs in Hackworth's pieces tell us that the readiness issue is tied to a deeper analysis, a disconnect between officers and soldiers. Here is a note from Baghdad that is "on message":

[E]ach company received seven actual “up armored” Humvees, and the first people they went to were the CO [commanding officer] and PLs [platoon leaders]. It seems, at least to this young man’s eyes that the days of commanders taking care of their men first have long since disappeared...

Protecting the "brains" and "nerves" of the organization is professional but not ethical. And then again this message from Afghanistan:

The issuance of luxury vehicles to those in staff positions is ludicrous. The vehicles are used to transport the officer to the DFAC, the PX, or to the next staff briefing, all within a short walking distance. One officer was observed to drive from his tent to the showers, a distance of approximately 100 feet. I see no requirements for an officer to have a luxury SUV in a combat zone.

We're getting into ACW territory, in terms of rhetoric; I'm thinking of Stanton's slam against "champagne and oysters on the Potomac," for instance.

On the face of it, Hackworth's interests are about "shoddy," misfeasance and malfeasance and these are failures of professionalism, aren't they? And if professionals have held sway and there is a failure in professionalism, then what?

In Civil War terms, there are only two solutions available: more professionalism or less (less meaning more talented civilians in command positions).

Hackworth straddles these ACW arguments by redifining "professionalism" while calling for more of it. For Hackworth, professionalism starts with combat experience from which the truly talented are selected for advancement. (This was McClellan's argument against Lincoln assigning him corps commanders based on date of rank.) Furthermore, Hackworth has endorsed a revised personnel system, more on which tomorrow: in that revised system, every officer must serve in the ranks before being advanced.

Hackworth's solution to the Army's professionalism crisis is to "democratize" the military experience, advance careers based on combat merit, and maintain the combat unit at the center of military thinking and planning.

This is a fascinating blend of Civil War positions: pro-professional while being anti-West Point. Pro-democratic rank and file but anti ACW-type elections for officers.

I think Lincoln was at least partly motivated in mixing soldier and civilian officers on the battlefield by the issue of merit and a search for natural talent. He was not systematic, however, and in the end the professionals were able to prevail bureacratically against civilian talent.

We'll look at two or three other modern reformers this week, working our way up the complexity scale, seeing how they fit into the great personnel controversy resolved in 1865.



Herman Melville is widely believed to have based his Civil War poetry on readings. And in all the poems and literature of McClellan's Battle of Malvern Hill, only in Melville are the elm trees prominent.

Critic Frank L. Day suggests this is connects the poem to a contemporary book by Frank Moore, The Rebellion Record: a diary of American events, with documents, narratives, illustrative incidents, poetry, etc. (New-York G.P. Putnam 1861):

"The house at Malvern Hill is a quaint old structure... A fine grove of ancient elms embowers the lawn in a grateful shade..."

A recent book, The Civil War World of Herman Melville, argues that Melville's inspirations were wider than just his readings.

Malvern Hill is another selection from Melville's Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War and you can read some of the contemporary criticism here. The comment in the New York Nation that "Nature did not make him a poet. His pages contain at best little more than the rough ore of poetry," is roughly what Edmund Wilson had to say of his work eighty years later.

But there are some Kiplingesque turns here, despite the naturalism, first in imagery:
Does the elm wood
Recall the haggard beards of blood?

and then in meter and imagery:
Reverse we proved was not defeat;
But ah, the sod what thousands meet—!

Melville was experimenting. The results are interesting.

Malvern Hill
(July, 1862)

Ye elms that wave on Malvern Hill
In prime of morn and May,
Recall ye how McClellan's men
Here stood at bay?
While deep within yon forest dim
Our rigid comrades lay—
Some with the cartridge in their mouth,
Others with fixed arms lifted South—
Invoking so
The cypress glades? Ah wilds of woe!

The spires of Richmond, late beheld
Through rifts in musket-haze,
Were closed from view in clouds of dust
On leaf-walled ways,
Where streamed our wagons in caravan;
And the Seven Nights and Days
Of march and fast, retreat and fight,
Pinched our grimed faces to ghastly plight—
Does the elm wood
Recall the haggard beards of blood?

The battle-smoked flag, with stars eclipsed,
we followed (it never fell!)—
In silence husbanded our strength—
Received their yell;
Till on this slope we patient turned
With cannon ordered well;
Reverse we proved was not defeat;
But ah, the sod what thousands meet—!
Does Malvern Wood
Bethink itself, and muse and brood?

We elms of Malvern Hill
remember every thing;
But sap the twig will fill:
Wag the world how it will,
Leaves must be green in Spring.



The series of posts labeled Military reform, now and then is not an attack on West Point or military professionalism but an examination of a Civil War controversy that is still with us, despite the total institutional victory of professionals over citizen-soldiers in 1865.

Military reform, now and then: the eternal dialog

I feel that West point is a great institution although it is openly part of the Political Elite of this country. [...} Not all the military truely believes in this country or even cares about the civilian population in it. - Posting to military message board, 2004

[West Pointers] too commonly construe themselves into the elite, as made of better clay than the common soldier - General William T. Sherman in Ben Butler's Butler's Book

They seem unable to realize that this is a Republic, in which the people are above generals, instead of generals above the people. - Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in T. Harry Williams' Lincoln and the Radicals.

Look closely at the names of the officers, rotating. See how many of them are Acadamy Officers. In the army they belong to the WPPA (West Poin Protective Assosiation) Or in lamans terms "Good ol Boys taking care of Good ol Boys. - Posting to military message board, 2004

To say or imply that WP officers look out for each other to the exclusion of brother soldiers is incorrect--no more than people anywhere pay attention to others when they have known the other people for many years. - Posting to military message board, 2004

We enjoyed one set-off to the clannishness of West Point and its opposition to every high officer that was not a graduate, and to the intrigues of each to pull the other down and set up himself. This was that the Confederate Army enjoyed identically the same sort of setback from West Point, and I am inclined to think, in a degree quite as great, if not greater. - Ben Butler, Butler's Book

... the problem facing our soldier today is too many college trained "leaders", not enough "real world" leaders. - Posting to military message board, 2004

[Y]ou must let loose the citizen soldiery of this country upon the rebellion. - Sen. Lyman Trumbull in T. Harry Williams' Lincoln and the Radicals

Sad we have all the best and brightest being led by what now appears to be the dimmest and most inept - Retired warrant officer posting
to message board, 2004

[I]n God's name put no more West Point officers upon us at this time - Sen. Zachariah Chandler in T. Harry Williams' Lincoln and the Radicals

Blogging schedule

We'll finish the Malvern Hill segment of the McClellan poetry thread tomorrow with work by Herman Melville and on Sunday we'll get to the meat of the military reform movement comparisons with ACW controversies.

Georgia's history curriculum

It seems that the reason Georgia high schoolers will start American History at Reconstruction is because the Civil War will be taught in middle school. The dispute, then is not about including the Civil War in the curriculum, as previously reported, but whether middle schoolers can handle that subject.


Last living widow of Civil War vet suffers heart attack * Uni. of Texas wants to move statues of Civil War leaders * Gettysburg and Williamsburg inspire Waterloo park development in Belgium


Rumsfeld on Grant

At the end of the public briefing broadcast yesterday on CSPAN, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld mentioned he was reading a book about Grant. I wonder if it was Bonekemper's (see yesterday's post)? He commented on the Union's Spring 1864 losses comparing them to losses suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan, remarking that Grant's casualties "were worth it" just as current losses are.

An interesting choice of reading in these times.

We know that Cheney reads Civil War history, carrying duffel bags of books onto flights. Eisenhower read Ambrose's Halleck and selected that author to be his biographer.

Given the poor quality of most Civil War histories, this may not be a good pastime for key decisionmakers. How about a warning label on pop history covers: "For relaxation and entertainment only." I'd rest a little easier, myself, if I knew they were reading for pleasure rather than guidance.

Military reform, now and then

By the end of the Civil War, the Union had purged its high command of non-Academy generals. There were exceptions, like Logan and Blair functioning in field commands as major generals, but those wholly self-taught were crowded out of the center.

There is no study of this event, nor do we have a handy source for contemporary back and forth on the issue. Here's a try at listing the positions of the two camps.

(1) Academy training does not prepare officers for war.
(2) The professionals will always consist of a stale, parochial talent pool organized by date of rank, not merit.
(3) Professionals will fall prey to their own class interests, putting these above the country's need.
(4) Professional officers lack the vision, energy and life experience of successful Americans civil leaders.
(5) Talented men can learn on-the-job and by reading.
(6) Professionals become preoccupied with military punctillio and minutia to the detriment of the mission.
(7) Professionals cannot connect with a citizen army mobilized by intense political or patriotic sentiment (cannot bring out their best).

(1) Civilians in high positions reduce efficiency.
(2) Civilians pursue individual and political (non-military) agendas.
(3) Civilian appointees make technical errors that cost lives.
(4) Civilians often have divided interests (businesses left behind, political careers, etc.) and lose focus.
(5) Civilian appointees will discriminate against professionals within their commands.
(6) Civilians curry favor with the rank and file.
(7) Appointees will apply non-military considerations in making military decisions.

This little list will be our jumping off point for looking at some ideas in the modern military reform movement. More tomorrow.


Museum chronicles Charleston siege * Police officer re-enacts Civil War era * Civil War history lies in Tennessee cemetery * McPherson gives his last lecture - plans book about Lincoln


Yes, we have changes

Here we are with a new look and there will be glitches, with things out of place, etc. The old posts will lack titles, for instance. Good luck to us all.
Broken promise alert: Will start the modern military reform vs. ACW military reform thread tomorrow. It should run Thu, Fri and Sun.
A few years ago, Edward H. Bonekemper III wrote a short book arguing that the audacity of Robert E. Lee imposed an impossible cost on the Confederate Army, dooming it in any prolonged contest. The volume was called How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War. I noted when it came out that,

He subscribes to the prevailing battlemindedness in CW historiography and takes it down to the next level of primitivism, which is statistical analysis. This makes for a a final stop at a place where Lee ranks far, far below Bragg in capability. Thus the "novelty" of this work, its special thrill, is that it applies the current wisdom against the leading beneficiary of the current wisdom, Mr. Robert E. Lee.

The simplistic metric of battles won or lost dominates ACW thinking and is key to saleability of personalities and events.

In his Lee book, Bonekemper did revive a useful analytic tool to try to measure one aspect of "quality" in generalship; that is "hit ratios." Considering hit ratios (damage taken versus damage inflicted), the results are astonishing when set beside current ACW wisdom. For example, in terms effective combat violence, there is no soldier in McClellan's league on either side of the Civil War except for Grant, and Grant arrives near McClellan's numbers only if you include surrendered troops as if they were direct combat casualties. (Please see the linked table for numbers.)

Bonekemper used hit ratios to help substantiate his view that Lee was a poor general well regarded by his president who enjoyed a popularity that insulated him from his mistakes.

Well, Bonekemper has written a new book about Grant's career: A Victor, Not a Butcher: Ulysses S. Grant's Overlooked Military Genius. I would have thought he would flip the coin and use numeric analysis to measure the higher quality of Grant's generalship. This review suggests, instead, that he abandoned analysis for storytelling:

Bonekemper's descriptions of Grant's Overland and Appomattox Campaigns are exceptionally reader friendly and easy to follow. As a military writer, the author has that gift of simplifying complex maneuvers and making them understandable.

That's marching backwards. But there's a little silver lining:

... not since Dr. Jeffery Hummel's seminal study, Freeing the Slaves and Enslaving Freemen, have I read a book so generous with its bibliography, notes, and appendices all of which are required by serious students of the war!

Hmmm. Have to find this book. Will report back promptly.

UPDATE | Visited the B&N here in Baltimore after writing this. They actually have Bonekemper's book in a special display. Down to brass tacks:

Citations: Overwhelmingly secondary sources, even including authors who write from secondary sources themselves (e.g. McPherson).
Strength figures: They play a large role in each chapter but are not cited. Lots of zeroes, very round numbers.
Casualty figures: An appendix carries tables comparing estimates made by pop historians for each engagement. Very interesting. The author gives his own "best estimate" but fails to comment on how each individual best estimate was calculated.
Storytelling: Omnipresent, but the author keeps each chapter short.
Bibliography: Nothing special.
Impulse buy rating: No sale. (Updated at 1:45 pm)
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There are great echoes of the Civil War military professionalization controversy rumbling through the modern military reform movement. We'll take a look at these starting tomorrow and continuing through Friday.
Have been poking around for a software solution to a research problem. Maybe that's a bad thing.

Nevertheless, to map the complex patterns of ACW political sponsorship of military careers, I would like to visualize the interaction between various generals on one side and various cabinet members and governors on the other side.

I started on this project looking at a simple hypertext authoring tool that could display information relationships graphically. Storyspace has this, but I'm afraid the volume I've collected would overload the display engine. Eastgate, which makes Storyscape, has a new product that may fit the bill, however: Tinderbox, which I need to look with care. However when they say, "Build relationships by arranging notes, organizing them with shape and color, linking them," it sounds like PowerPoint or Visio. And their graphic is does not speak well of organization, although I see possibilities in it.

Crime analysis and private intelligence analysis programs would be perfect, but they are geared for enterprises and government markets. Look at the wow factor here:

The software will troll through open databases, like D&B (DNB ) or LexisNexis, to look for connections between individuals and companies. Then it will illustrate the connections graphically, with lines connecting people and organizations.

This is Analyst's Notebook developed for intelligence work. You know you are entering deep waters when the website contains no hint of price.

Here's something interesting designed for crime-busters:

Watson provides clear and comprehensible charts that uncover patterns and relationships quickly and in detail. With Watson, information can be managed and presented with clarity and precision. Real-time analysis, intelligent querying and numerous temporal, associative or spatial charts ensure that information discovery is optimized and unlimited.

This is another interesting product lacking a price tag.

Back to the 3x5" cards for now.
Grant biographer Brooks Simpson was at Chancellorsville recently and notes:

The problem with popular understandings of the battle -- and this is reinforced to some extent by the NPS treatment of the field -- is that people tend to abandon interest in the battle after May 2 [1862]. The Fredericksburg battlefield is set up to interpret 1862, not the 1863 action; Salem Church is overrun by development; although there is a Hazel Grove interpretive stop and walking tours of the final Union positions, people tend to go to the Chancellorsville VC to look at where Jackson was hit (not at the monuments, by the way).

Indeed: the configuration of the park - its amenities and attractions, the accident of which lands were acquired - affects the interpretation of the the battle. An obvious point that had not occurred to me, since I don't tour with guides. Another great reason to keep park services out of the interpretation business.
Battlefield preservation success stories from an organization local to the Shenandoah.

"Partnerships — both obvious and unlikely ones — lie at the root of each saved battlefield."

I'm open to argument on this, though I think partnerships will devour the precious time of a volunteer organization and enmesh people in useless politics. In this article at least they seem to be talking about civic partnerships that produce the desired results.

The desired result in battlefield conservation is always and only visitors on battlefield land.

The alternative concept in partnership is to team up with wildlife lovers and farmland conservators, the state, the county, the feds, and a myriad of other parties to encumber a piece of land through joint purchase of development rights. these partnerships keep people off battlefield land, but somehow allow groups to claim vistory for battlefield preservation.

We should keep an eye on these Shenandoah volunteers. The deep ditch of easement buying runs right next to the road they are travelling.
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U.S. Army officers study the art and deeds of Robert. E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. If you ask military faculty why, they refer to our (USA + CSA) common military tradition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For some extreme Jackson fantasies, go here, and here.
NEWS | Boston Civil War memorial vandalized * Announcer brings passion, knowledge to battle re-enactments * Historian describes action from sidelines at Battle of Kelly's Ford re-enactment *


SATURDAY | Back to Malvern Hill on this McClellan Poetry Day, and to the writings of a best-selling author of the time, one Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward (1844-1911). Ward was a prolific New Englander who wrote on spiritual themes. I see from a net bio that she had over 56 books to her credit.

This is a poem you may need to read calmly, soberly, sitting down. It is laden with a sentimentality we would consider completely over the top; imagine Mac and Hooker and kittens and mother's cranberry pies all in one train of thought:

"Tell her"-but he wandered, slipping
Into tangled words and cries,
Something about Mac and Hooker,
Something dropping through the cries
About the kitten by the fire,
And mother's cranberry-pies;

The historic content is slight and I can't date the poem exactly, but the battle of Malvern Hill certainly inspired this work, so let's put on our Victorian spectales and have a look.


Was there ever message sweeter
Than that one from Malvern Hill,
From a grim old fellow,-you remember?
Dying in the dark at Malvern Hill.
With his rough face turned a little,
On, a heap of scarlet sand,
They found him, just within the thicket,
With a picture in his hand,
With a stained and crumpled picture
Of a woman's aged face;
Yet there seemed to leap a wild entreaty,
Young and living-tender-from the face
When they flashed the lantern on it,
Gilding all the purple shade,
And stooped to raise him softly,
That's my mother, sir," he said.
"Tell her"-but he wandered, slipping
Into tangled words and cries,
Something about Mac and Hooker,
Something dropping through the cries
About the kitten by the fire,
And mother's cranberry-pies; and there
The words fell, and an utter
Silence brooded in the air.
just as he was drifting from them,
Out into the dark, alone
(Poor old mother, waiting for your message,
Waiting with the kitten, all alone!),
Through the hush his voice broke, Tell her
Thank you, Doctor-when you can,
Tell her that I kissed her picture,
And wished I'd been a better man."
Ah, I wonder if the red feet
Of departed battle-hours
May not leave for us their searching
Message from those distant hours.
Sisters, daughters, mothers, think you,
Would your heroes now or then,
Dying, kiss your pictured faces,
Wishing they'd been better men?


I've mentioned a book previously that has a lot of new thinking in it: The War Within the Union High Command by Thomas J. Goss.

One of the points he makes succinctly (and too briefly, at the end of the book) is that the wartime public operated on a "tactical win/loss standard" of success and that this mapped to a simple political barometer. This is not a strange concept to those who have read Archer Jones or Herman Hattaway, or to those reading the gold market charts from that period, but it has a lager meaning in understanding the historiography of the high command. Let's work with this idea.

On one level, you had the McClellans, the Grants, the Shermans who could envision multi-theatre and even national strategy. Lincoln seemed strategy-averse; I think it was optimistic to imagine that a politician, living in the moment, swimming from one expediency to the next, would ever commit in advance to a train of events over a fairly extended period of time allowing for only little adjustment. Soldiers, a little deaf to politics, tried to get general strategies and policies adopted.

On the next level, you had Lincoln, who could simultaneously see the political and military needs of each situation, trying to operate inside the space of public opinion left to him by a "tactical win/loss standard" of success. Lincoln, a little deaf to strategy, tried to get political considerations accepted in military projects, occupation, and operations.

On the most basic level using the most primitive analysis available, much of the public and Congress measured success one battle at a time; never mind where the battle, or whether the battle was needed, or any other context: batlle won or battle lost represented political capital won or lost. Neither Lincoln nor the generals operated at this level of analysis and no one can make sense of the American Civil War using such a yardstick, though many a pop historian has tried.

Those adhering to the tactical win/loss standard of excellence were those who pushed for more political generals in the army. These generals "talked the talk" of immediate and unrelenting offensive action and they promised to "walk the walk." They were against professionalism on principle as limiting and parochial; they were in favor of genius manifested publicly in non-military areas of life being applied to the needs of war. They saw themselves as delivering streams of victories that would accumulate into one national victory. The idea that there was any need for strategy or that something could be won by strategy was openly mocked by the secretary of war himself on many occasions.

Goss aside, the primary sources are full of this stuff.

Now it is 2004 and we see senior military officers are reviving the framework of the natural genius argument. In my post here on Wednesday, I put up the writings of a colonel and a major recently appearing in Infantry magazine, a publication of the Army's very own Infantry School.

These gentlemen proposed two men for genius rank, Jackson and Patton, and the careful description of their virtues had nothing to do with training or preparation (yes, they read military history but so did the political generals of 1861). They were not held up as exemplars of training or devotion to professionalism: they were natural geniuses. The key point for our modern authors is that Jackson and Patton applied aspects of their personalities to each battle they fought. Look closely at the piece linked Wednesday: neither Patton nor Jackson can transcend the need of an individual battle. Their abilities are highly idiosyncratic in each case and can only be applied one battle at a time. Since military history has to be didactic when presented to military audiences, the authors have tacked on a little window dressing at the end, some tips on how you or I can be more like Jackson or Patton.

By the end of the Civil War all the "non-professional" generals had been run off the reservation. All of them. As Goss points out in his book, the school of "natural talent" and "natural genius" was completely defeated by the school of expert training and education. We are living in a world where the possibility of a Civil War type irruption of political celebrities into the pool of officer talent is impossible. Nor is it even possible that we will see the WWII scenario of accomplished civilian technocrats assuming generals' stars. The man of genius is dead as dead can be, as far as awarding commissions goes. The man of natural attainments and talents is locked out and the key has been thrown away. Those with training and military experience - the consistent ones, the dependable ones - hold sway completely.

Black Jack Logan returned to Congress after the war and fought Grant and the professionaliztion ethos. His vision for the Army was interesting; it is not taught. He lost, short term. But it's a symptom of the long-term failure of Grant and his associates that those arguments routinely used against professionalization could be the bread and butter assumptions of the same officer class his bureaucratic struggles made possible.
The local Fox affiliate morning TV news ran one segment after another on this weekend's Spotsylvania Court House re-enactment.
McClellan Poetry Day continues tomorrow with more Malvern Hill verse.
NEWS | "The Andersonville Trial" plays Albany * Weymouth, MA, considers naming school after ACW vet * Teacher makes his pupils into re-enactors * Fireworks wreck ACW cannon


The news is both hopeful and frightening:

New nonprofit pushes to preserve Franklin Battlefield.

We could begin with the question, who needs a new conservation group? That's a deep one we'll save for another time. Right now we can assume that the people who formed this organization did not feel any existing body could be sufficiently trusted to save Franklin battlefield.

Let me put down this bag of peanuts and shout some advice from the gallery.

(1) Buy land. Don't let anyone talk you out of buying land.

(2) If an officer of your new organization proposes buying easements or restrictive covenants, say "We buy land." Then fire that officer for suggesting you fritter away resources.

(3) If a member of your new organization proposes buying easements or restrictive covenants, say "We buy land." Then return the member's card and say goodbye.

(4) If a member of your board stands in the way of your buying land because of cost, remind that board member that you have only one purpose on earth: to buy land.

(5) If people tell you a landowner is asking too much for battlefield land, remind them that the amount asked is so cheap that a developer could pay full asking price and still make millions reselling the same property in parcels.

(6) If you do not have enough money to buy the land you want, act like the entrepreneur launching a startup ... spend your whole life, 18 hours per day, looking for money, for investors, for deep pockets. Borritt has his millionaires to fund the Lincoln Prize. Find your millionaires.

(7) If a developer gets the land before you do, buy lots in the development. Make one of the new houses a battlefield welcome center. Encourage tourist traffic to the development and weekend tours of the neighborhood. As more development property becomes available, buy it. Continue this process until you own the battlefield.

(8) Express your displeasure with developer-friendly officials; use lawsuits, elections, and press conferences rich with names named.

(9) When this or that organization comes to you offering to team up, or "help" or to "coordinate efforts," simply say to them, "What we need from you is money to buy battlefield land - and it must have no strings attached. Can you provide that?" If not, tell them goodbye.

(10) Structure your organization to prevent an internal coup by paid management. Management will try to hijack the organization in order to make a living out of it.

If you want to see how battlefields have been destroyed by preservationists and government entities look at this discussion thread, "Spinning Wheels on South Mountain." It could be the furture of Franklin battlefield if you repeat the mistakes made in Maryland.
In yesterday's post, we looked at the content of an historical essay written for today's Army officers. Tomorrow I'll tie some of the authors' thoughts and conclusions into the major Civil War controversies about officering a standing army.