Blogroll has been updated

... it has more than doubled in size.

Counting the Civil War dead

There should be a rip-roaring controversy about J. David Hacker's recount of the ACW dead but Civil War historians are so innumerate and so phobic about numbers in general that they are willing to keep quiet or go along with any plausible claims.

We'll get to Hacker's claims soon. In the meantime, this page is a great source for links to his works on the subject.


Red River follies

Some re-enactors were having at it in Alexandria, LA, the other day (photo). My advice: stage your stuff away from the parking lot or it spoils the effect.

Also, when advocating the virtues of history, don't say things like "This battle defined who we are as American citizens," or call it one of the "most important battles in history." Not if you're talking about the battle of Forts Randolph and Buhlow.

Note also to caption writers: "a galvanized Southern regiment" is not the same thing as an energized or inspired Southern regiment.


The offensive spirit in a picture (OT)

Ah, the spirit of the attack. The old infantry mission "to close with and destroy the enemy." We hear a lot about it in our military readings.

I think this wartime Japanese painting puts over an artist's conception of the offensive spirit very well.

As a former member of and exponent for the "stupid infantry," this is my cup of tea.

(Shown: Japanese bayonet attack on a Soviet BT-7 tank at Nomonhan, 1939. By T Fujita, 1941, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.)


Emily Dickinson and the ignorance of curators

It is a mark of the Civil War and various antebellum passions that the daily newspaper read by the overwhelmingly Democrat population of Amherst, MA, is called The Republican. This newspaper title is actually rather common throughout New England and it must baffle the locals completely, given the scarcity of Republicans in those parts.

The Republican is running a sad little piece coming out of the Emily Dickinson Museum: Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst to host Civil War encampment group. Someone at the museum had an NRA moment and invited a bunch of armed white males onto the premises, though that's not the sad part.

What is sad is the ignorance displayed by a curator there on the subject of Dickinson's connections to the ACW. Jane Wald, director of the museum, said the following:

(1) "She wrote more poems during the Civil War years than any other time."

That shouldn't be your strongest point.

(2) Reporter paraphrase: "She was deeply affected by the death of Frazar Stearns, son of Amherst College president William Augustus Stearns, who died in the battle of New Bern, North Carolina in March, 1862."

Actually, she knew many of the young Harvard men killed at Ball's Bluff, as well.

(3) Director Wald: "The idea is to help convey a sense of Dickinson’s awareness of and involvement in the life of her community apart from her poetry."

Why not show pictures and bios of her dead male friends and acquaintances, delineating the social connections?

(4) Director Wald: "She was becoming more a bit more reclusive at this time (but) it didn’t mean she wasn’t aware of what was going on."

She was continuously informed of the deaths of young men she knew and discussed the war with her visitors, including her literary mentor Higginson.

(5) "The encampment 'is one way to highlight the range of her experiences and observations that informed her creative mind.'"

She also knew Col. Robert Shaw and was affected by his death. Maybe the museum could show the film Glory so some of that Hollywood charisma might rub off on Emily.

Could we please fire Director Wald? If not, could we put this highly credentialed professional under the close supervision of a few knowledgeable amateurs and hobbyists?

On August 10, 2000, a couple of knowledgeable people rebuked Joyce Carol Oates for saying Dickinson did not write about the ACW. I don't expect Dickinson Museum employees to read this blog, but the rebuke appeared in the New York Review of Books, a publication so assiduously mainstream that James McPherson is its house critic for all new Civil War books.

Some of Dickinson's most powerful lines are in her war verses. We expect Dickinson curators to know that.

Are we that wait—sufficient worth—
That such Enormous Pearl
As life—dissolved be—for Us—
In Battle’s—horrid Bowl?

It may be—a Renown to live—
I think the Men who die—
Those unsustained—Saviors—
Present Divinity—

And this, I have quoted before, and connected it to the deaths in the Harvard Regiment at Ball's Bluff:

My Portion is Defeat--today--
A paler luck than Victory--
Less Paeans-fewer Bells--
The Drums don't follow Me--
with tunes--
Defeat--a somewhat slower--
More arduous than Balls--

'Tis populous with Bone and
And Men too straight to stoop
And piles of solid Moan--
And Chips of Blank--in Boyish
And scraps of Prayer--
And Death's surprise,
Stamped visible--in Stone--

There's somewhat prouder,
over there--
The Trumpets tell it to the Air--
How different Victory
To Him who has it--and the One
Who to have had it, would
have been
Contenteder--to die--

Yes indeed, my friends, Men too straight to stoop again and Oates' too crooked to accept correction. Her rebuttal to this criticism is absurd - read it yourselves in the link above.

But we were talking about the ignorance of Director Wald, not Oates. Let her find Oates totally convincing. Let her believe that nonsense that Dickinson wrote no Civil War verse. In that case, let her at least present the Civil War letters of Emily Dickinson, rich in war content.

But perhaps she is unfamiliar with such letters.Being a director means you are trained in the business of museums, not poetry or Dickinson.

Why not have zookeepers direct poet's museums? Where would the downside be?

Sesquicentennial bits

The National Park Service this month decided to launch an ACW Sesquicentennial site. Better late than never?

Would it be too cruel to characterize this as government-approved history?

I have a Sesquicentennial project of my own in mind. We all rent a bus, drive it to the Genessee Valley in New York, and free any remaining serfs working General James Wadsworth's estates.

People could relate to that better that re-enactments or authorial lectures.


Forbidden philately

Two of McClellan's many triumphs are being celebrated by the USPS, which is exceedingly careful not to mention his name. They have studied their pop history well.

p.s. I should publish Adm. Porter's personal letter to McClellan (see the McClellan Papers originals) asking McClellan to credit him with the idea for the New Orleans expedition. The record on this is most interesting and absent from Civil War histories.


The blogroll has been updated. Broken links have been fixed.

Key to parenthetical comments:

Inactive: Old stuff visible.
Terminated: Nothing visible.
ex-ACW: Location same, content changed
ex-Blog: Location same, not a blog now

These are new listings, found by myself:
Duane Tate
John F. Cummings III
Michael Lynch

This is one that should have been listed ages ago but for some reason wasn't:
Andy Etman

These are ripped off from Eric Wittenberg's roll, taking advantage of his good nature:
Charlie Knight
Craig Swain
Corey Meyer
Damien Shiels
Dave Powell
Jim Rosebrock
Kraig McNutt
Johns Hennessy et al
Richard J. Bell
Richard McCormick
Sean Heuvel

I was surprised to find a group blog called "Emerging Civil War Historians."

The mission of the blog you are now reading has been to submerge Civil War authors, as many as deserve it. I hope not to rain too hard on the parade of the emerging authors. Steven Wright used to joke that he put his dehumidifier in a room with his humidifier to watch them fight it out. A scene set for tragedy.

A little history: My first post here appears to date from August, 2003. The only ACW blog that existed up until that time was a travelogue in which a guy (Frederic A. Moritz) reported his paddlings around North Carolina following the trail of the Burnside Expedition. It was not an open-ended affair, time wise, and when he reached his last destination, his blog folded. The content tended to be naturalistic travel narrative. The blog is still up here and from the dates, you can see he began and ended posting the month before CWBN was launched.

So I continue to claim that this was the first Civil War blog and it remains the longest-lived one at that. I think that's worth saying once every nine or ten years. Sort of shocking not to receive a continuous string of complements on that, actually.


The Wadsworths persist

Catching up on back issues of In and Around Horse Country, I noticed that Marion Thorne is "huntsman" for the Genessee Valley Hunt. A huntsman acts as c-in-c of the dogs, around whom the hunt is organized, and Ms. Thorne is the stepdaughter of the grandson of Major W. Austin Wadsworth, founder of the Genessee Valley Hunt and a very big name in the history of American foxhunting.

I am unclear on the relation of W. Austin and our good friend MG James Wadsworth, the great patroon and leader of the NY Republicans in opposition to Seward-Weed (one supposes WA's majority originated in the ACW). This 1943 article makes clear that there are just too many Wadsworths to keep track of, even for local historians, and it suggests the immense properties of the W. Austins (over 60,000 acres) are separate from the endless estates of the James Wadsworths. The same article is more than a little defensive about the status of the serfs who (as late as 1943) worked the lands of their Genessee patroons.

So, the Wadsworths are still with us as surely as the ACW is still with us.

p.s., W. Austin, center above, is depicted sometime after 1878, I think, because that is the point at which he tried to establish his own pack. Of course, he could be posing with borrowed hounds at an earlier date.The eclectic hunting dress is charming. Perhaps it is ratcatcher. By 1912, he had succumbed to conformity.

Note the stovepipe hat

In 3-D for you, the consumer. You take your kicks where you find them.

Today's war news is not bloody enough; history is not gory enough; and the life of AL is not dramatic enough.

Ghoulish you.

On the other hand, if this movie brings just a single child to the study of history, it will have been well worth it.


The publishing dog chases its tail

A reader writes:
I was thinking about Grant the other day – and noting the slew of forthcoming Grant biographies by big names. Have you noticed? Three major biographers have Grant bios in the works: H.W. Brands (Oct. 2012), Ron Chernow (not sure when), and Ronald C. White, Jr. (2014).


Here’s a test--how many Grant bios can you name off the top of your head in the past 15 years? Simpson, Perret, Smith, Waugh, Longacre, Korda… I think G is challenging Lincoln as the most popular biographical subject. Not to mention the “dual” biographies: Grant and Twain, Grant and Sherman, Grant and Lincoln.

And … oh good, another new biography of Thomas. Am I the only one that is heartily tired of hearing about GHT and how unappreciated he is? Three biographies since 2009 – all of them insisting he is unappreciated.

All right, all right, enough already, we appreciate him!

Master of War: The Life of General George H. Thomas – 2009 – Thomas “has never captured the public imagination”

George Thomas: Virginian for the Union – 2010 – “one of the North’s greatest generals… yet he has been eclipsed.”

George Henry Thomas: As True As Steel – 2012 – “George Henry Thomas still has not received his due.” Really? He still hasn’t?
Publishers showed us two things during the sludgefest that followed Ken Burns's "Civil War." (1) Whatever works, keep doing it. (2) The simpler the meme, the greater the sales.

Now I have a question for all of you. Earl Hess has been on a publishing roll. What is the Earl Hess value proposition? He writes outside of my expertise and I do not understand what exactly he is all about. Storyteller? Fresh new research? Powerful affirmations of what we already know? Bold revisionist? What is Earl Hess doing?

Theories welcome, esp. from Hess fans.


The timing of a diplomatic lament

In the Third Session of the First CSA Congress (1/63-5/63), on January 14, a letter on foreign affairs from Jefferson Davis was delivered and entered into the record. The argument and the timing of what Davis lays out I have not previously read in diplomatic histories by Howard Jones, et al. They strike me as very important. Here is the gist of his report:
The complaint is that the [European] neutrality has been rather nominal than real, and that recognized {European] neutral rights have been alternatively asserted and waived in such manner as to bear with great severity on us and to confer signal advantages on our enemy.
This is very condensed compared to the long message it summarizes. Davis is saying (and he illustrates this), that the neutrals have been openly and clearly playing against the Confederacy from the start of the war. Up to this point, Jefferson has mentioned neutrals' surrender of their treaty rights to ship non-contraband goods to and from belligerent ports; the neutral's failure to condemn an illegal (paper) blockade; the neutrals' refusal to allow their ports to admit privateering prizes for dsiposal; France's failure to recoginize the sovereignty of states with which it had previously signed separate treaties apart from the U.S.; and most importantly, the French and British position communicated to Confederate commissioners from the outset, "a refusal to treat us as an independent government." The message does not mention frustration with any failure to mount a peace initiative. It acknowledges flatly Louis Napoleon's recent efforts to poll European powers for their attitude on a potential future peace initiative, but Davis seems to dismiss this development. The Davis letter is all past tense, barn-door-closed in tone. At one point Davis says,
I have hitherto refrained from calling your attention to this condition of our relations with foreign powers for various reasons.
It is therefore because our just grounds of complaint can no longer be misinterpreted that I lay them clearly before you.
To repeat, there is no hint of a reasonable chance of neutral intervention ever having been a calculation of the Davis government. The story is one of neutrals playing their neutrality against the CSA in favor of the USA from day one.

The defenders of the conventional wisdom might say that this message was Davis blowing off steam at the failure of intervention. If so, the failure is from the first, a failure to even enter grounds of discussion where this could be feasible.

(Note also, prior to Davis's message, a representative entered a motion - referred to committee - to recall all Confederate commissioners from abroad.)

What we are seeing here is not exasperation that a single military roll of the dice went against one side. In his January 1863 message, Davis was washing his hands of the Europeans (and his Congress is favorable to that) after a string of offenses. He has observed the effects of their policies from the beginning and judged them passively hostile. He is fed up with what has been going on for a long time.

The French initiative then, in the general context, appears as a fluke and Davis seems to give it no consideration for success.

Readers should walk the timeline.

Davis's message was surely in preparation during December of 1862, at the latest. So too, the congressional measure that would have recalled commissioners.

The idea that Davis or his Congress entertained hopes of European intervention in the second half of '62 appears to be unworkable.

Whatever fears the Union had for a peace initiative, it should not be read into the Confederate side.

Intervention looks to be a plot device concocted by talespinners to juice a story, especially that of the Maryland campaign.

p.s. Our friend Tim Reese in his last book did a fine job in tracking (unit by unit) the British Army force buildup in Canada during the ACW, esp. in the run-up to the Maryland campaign. Although the buildup can be roughly correlated to Seward-induced British tensions with the Union, they do not correlate to peace initiatives or discussions in Britain. The diplomatic histories make much of a high point for intervention in the fall of 1862. Its cresting wave was a proposed British cabinet meeting to discuss the matter. The sponsors of this discussion lost their nerve beforehand and it never even got that far. Attempts are made to connect Antietam with the decision to drop the cabinet approach but the whole issue is moot. Had the topic been broached in cabinet, it would have needed a consensus to move forward. Moving forward means deciding on the form of the peace initiative, and whether it would be backed by diplomatic threats to recognize the CSA or military force of some sort to start negotiations. Once those matters were decided, a proposal would have to be sold to Parliament and the French. I have felt that the time element and the moving political parts always made European intervention a false problem for ACW historians. The Davis letter to the CSA lower house moves us even farther away from the possibility of such a development.


The NYT notices a McPherson misdeed

The New York Times managed to sound like Civil War Bookshelf earlier this month:
The Fox-Livermore numbers continued to be cited well into the 21st century ... Among many others, James M. McPherson used them without citing the source in “Battle Cry of Freedom,” his Pulitzer-winning 1988 history of the war.
Surprise, surprise. How shocking is that? Or not.

A Dr. Hacker estimates higher ACW deaths than the Fox-Livermore tallies. We'll look at his work in a future post.

Palmer and Patton (cont.)

Here is the gist of Patton’s analysis from the 1932 memo. He says that there have been two armies recurring in history:
(a) A Mass Army composed of hastily raised and incompletely trained individuals who, in the main, looked on the business of war as a secondary avocation. The dominant characteristic of such a force is QUANTITY rather than QUALITY. (b) A Professional Army, highly trained, and composed of individuals who looked on the business of war as their vocation. The dominant characteristic of such a force is QUALITY rather than QUANTITY.

The present trend of military thought: Since 1919 numerous military authorities have voiced the belief that for the immediate future the solution to the problem of obtaining short, decisive wars was to be found in the employment of smaller, more mobile and better trained armies. That is, by the use of armies organized along professional lines. […]
Notice the problem Patton is trying to solve with his reorganization proposal: “the problem of obtaining short, decisive wars.”

Scott’s devotion to a 75,000-man force of regulars sprang from similar concerns (and earned Scott the younger General Palmer’s condemnation).

Could the ACW have been “solved” Patton's way?

Here is where Scott and Patton’s views agree. The bulk of Scott’s 75,000 would have formed a column descending the Mississippi with enhanced mobility. Scott, in his letters to McClellan, conceived of this as an unstoppable military force, foreshadowing Patton’s argument of Quality devouring Quantity; 50,000 or so professionals would overmatch the numerous Southern forces sent to oppose them.

And here is where Scott and Patton diverge. The mission of Scott’s riverine regulars was to clear the Mississippi and seize New Orleans at its mouth. This would create the political effect of a bargaining incentive, the war being settled through negotiation. Scott was NOT going to occupy the enemy’s capital or smash his military forces.

McClellan’s views of August, 1861, provide an interesting alternative. McClellan proposed following rail, river and coast lines to junction points where large forces (Quantities) would be deposited in fortified positions where they could easily hold off those CSA (Quantities) sent to dislodge them. McClellan named his targets and timelines; the effect would have created the “Anaconda” people talk about with respect to Scott’s ideas. With the passage of time, McClellan's mass army (Quantity) would be dispensed in ever more rock-hard packets. No short war, but likely a shorter war.

There is an interesting light, however, thrown on Patton’s ideas in recent works. Martin van Creveld in his book Fighting Power: German and US Army Performance, 1939-1945 makes the point that the Germans decided against a robust replacement policy for the army in order to preserve the fighting power of veteran units, preferring instead to combine fragments into ad hoc formations over time. Replacements were segregated into all new units. This is very much like the accidental ACW replacement “system” where ever-shrinking veteran regiments could be counted on to deliver more shock than fully staffed new regiments, or regiments diluted with too many green troops.

John Mosier, in his new-ish Death Ride fastens onto another Patton-related point. He focuses on the qualitative difference in the firepower and maneuver of German units on the eastern front in an extended quality vs. quantity meme. Unlike van Creveld and his intangibles, Mosier posits that certain German divisions were “super units” functioning equal to or above corps level in striking power due to being infused with equipment allocations at multiples of the TOE norms and with that equipment being the newest and best technology available. Mosier pegs the Stalin/Hitler outcome on Hitler moving Quality to other fronts.

It is hard to imagine Civil War super units. Maybe regulars carrying repeating rifles and “coffee grinders” on armored trains? That would raise the problem of ammunition supply, however, and on the logistical and transportation matters, Patton has very interesting things to say – things with a lot of Civil War resonance.


BTW, the original letters of Col. George S. Patton, CSA, can be purchased here.


Palmer and Patton

This was Col. John M. Palmer’s main point about the Civil War (in U.S. Grant’s words): the South leavened the whole loaf by distributing its professionals among the volunteer (amateur) formations. The North failed to reap the same benefit because of Winfield Scott’s commitment to concentrating experience in regular formations as part of a Regular Army buildout.

In Palmer’s view, this produced a qualitative disparity that enabled a long Confederate resistance against an inferior Union establishment.

In 1932, Maj. George S. Patton submitted an extensive memo to the War College on “The Probable Characteristics of the Next War and the Organization, Tactics, and Equipment Necessary to Meet them.”

In his memo, Patton attributed the duration of the Civil War to likeness: the two sides contended with similar organizations, tactics, weapons, and technology. Patton did not consider Palmer’s point that the Union reduced quality by creating a concentration of military talent in its regular establishment. The two sides were just too similar for one or the other to achieve striking results.

This was not the only point on which Patton disagreed with Palmer. He was, at the time, living in Palmer’s world, under the National Defense Act of 1920, crafted by Palmer and Wadsworth. The Act does not come into view in Patton’s ruminations.

As we noted earlier in this thread, that Act lost its Palmerite essence because the reserve components were not funded until WWII started abroad. In considering the Army as it was in 1932, Patton disregarded the unfunded reserves and wrote of the active component as if they were the “complete” army.

Before considering Patton’s suggested military reform, let’s lay out “Palmerism” and its alternatives.

(1) The most “Palmerite” structure was that proposed by Washington and Knox: small standing army, very large trained reserves, proportional to the male population.

(2) This would fix the anti-Palmerite situation of a small standing army supplemented with a large but useless militia. This was the traditional American setup, through the Civil War.

(3) Another non-Palmerite solution was Peyton March’s huge standing army with a large reserve stocked with the usual (poorly trained) suspects.

(4) Yet another is what we have now: a large standing army with a smaller standing reserve.*

(5) Another non-Palmer solution: Emory Upton’s proposed larger standing army with a small trained reserve.

Patton’s contribution to this is to suggest a sixth anti-Palmer organization:

(6) Small army, no reserves. What might look like an oversight – consideration of the reserves – is intentional. Patton’s 1932 paper is concerned with deflecting the U.S. Government’s planning for and reliance on a mass army of conscripts. He makes a number of good arguments against mass armies, many of which apply to Civil War armies and which we will take up in a separate post.

To summarize his views a bit summarily, Patton viewed a small professional army as better able to manage newer military technology; as being better trained over time; as being less susceptible to wounds, sickness, straggling; as being more maneuverable and able to strike much harder blows.

Patton, in Civil War terms, is aligned with Palmer’s bugbear, Winfield Scott. He wants a small, skilled force to win a shorter war. Like many an ACW reader, Patton believes in battles as decisive in war. Without battles, his view makes no sense.

He makes the Lincoln-Grant-Unionist error of thinking that if X army is destroyed/hurt/crippled the war cannot continue.

Wasn’t it Robert E. Lee, tears streaking down his face, voice quavering pitifully in that famous Richmond conference during McClellan’s advance, who said We cannot win a war of posts [positions]? Wasn’t it McClellan who laid out a national strategy to Lincoln in which his mass army would occupy successive posts (positions) at railway junctions and in cities, fortifying points as he went in an multi-phased internal strangulation of the CSA?

How soon we forget, if we ever even knew.

A war of positions is quite suitable for a mass army. Patton’s (or Scott’s) professionals, facing a positional mass army, would have to strike and dislodge a large number of fortified levies without running down their own strength beyond the point of extinction or dilution.

If facing Palmer’s mass army of highly trained reservists, Patton’s (or Scott’s) force would be quickly snuffed out.

Or so it seems to me. More on this shortly.

*In absolute numbers our NG and Reserves are large but they are not proportionate to the total population of the US as Washington, Knox, and Palmer intended. Additionally, they are comparable in size to the standing army whereas they should utterly dwarf the standing army.


An open letter to Gary Gallagher

Dear Dr. Gallagher:

It has been seven years since we noted here the forthcoming book on ACW navies by James M. McPherson. This book now has a release date, if Amazon is to be believed.

You are far and above the usual cut of book editors and I want to appeal to your professionalism and integrity as you review McPherson's manuscript. Please be especially mindful of the following.

(1) Dr. McPherson in recent works has tended to cite primary sources only, skipping any references to the analysis that preceded him while at the same time borrowing liberally from that analysis. As well read as you are, Dr. Gallagher, we (the reading public) rely on you to recognize borrowings McPherson may make from the rich field of Naval history and we rely on you to compel him to acknowledge his influences in writing.

(2) It is important that McPherson supply a bibliographic essay reviewing the pertinent literature. In the past few books he has avoided this. Please provide every facility to him in supplying such an essay.

(3) Please be very alert to memes, turns of phrase, key concepts, and other intellectual property that may belong to naval historians and compel Dr. McPherson to attribute them wherever he uses them. This has been his weakest point in books past.

(4) Please formulate a compelling reason to read Dr, McPherson's book for those of us who have already read the naval histories on which his work is based. The Amazon description promises excitement and entertainment. The advanced reader is looking for more.

As conversant as you are in ACW history, we are counting on you to ensure no injury is done by McPherson to ACW naval historians and we rely on you to guide him toward some standard of originality, the same standard your UNC books posess.

Submitted in all humility,
Dimitri Rotov

McPherson's navies: my personal guarantee to you, the reader

I had sworn off commenting on James McPherson's books in the last half-year. Hat tip to Drew for alerting me to this forthcoming navies volume on which I had speculated previously in this space. To close the loop, a letter to McPherson's publisher is in order, and I have written that and posted it here.

Gallagher is a great enough acquisitions editor to understand the danger that a McPherson book on Civil War navies represents.

At worst, it presents an attempt to usurp the insights and analysis of those who have preceded him. At best (the best we can hope for from this author) it will be a fully credited "retelling" of ACW naval history with entertaining anecdotes.

As hostile as I am to McPherson's deplorable corpus, I don't begrudge him a mindless, pointless, entertaing retelling of naval history. Nor do I begrudge him future multiple prizes for his "brilliant" work as the new "pre-eminent" naval historian. Many will worship at his new, nautical altar. I truly believe - truly - McPherson is uniquely qualified to write an authoritatively useless synthesis of Civil War naval history that no one needs and that everyone will praise.

My special concern regards McPherson's editor, Gary Gallagher. We need him to stop McPherson from ripping off the writers who preceded him.

In this, I am personally willing to help. I promise to review McPherson's printed word in order to track every lifted meme, every stolen phrase, every unattributed quote, every purloined insight, every piece of chicanery that gets by Dr. Gary Gallagher. I will invite readers to report on the same topic. We will have a McPherson expose extravaganza.

This sounds like a threat but it shouldn't. I do trust Editor Gary Gallagher as much as I distrust Author Gary Gallagher. I think the author (weak stuff) got finagled into a book deal that the editor (stern stuff) dislikes.

Giving McPherson a swing at naval history makes no sense except potentially in sales. Unless you are networking with him or looking for a book prize...

My secret hope is that in the seven years since this project was announced, Editor Gary Gallagher has been struggling to bring integrity and decency to an author who is used to having his own way in all things and at all times. This is an author (McPherson) who defended the indefensible DK Goodwin in the midst of her plagiarism scandal. He recently wrote a tiny book on Lincoln, acknowledged not a single Lincoln scholar, and got away with it, even winning prizes for it. Lincoln scholars rolled over and nobody scratched their stomachs.

We deep Civil War readers are made of sterner stuff than Lincoln scholars (any day), we are brighter stuff than the Ken Burns fans who haunt our bookshelves, and we are more demanding stuff than the generic nonfiction bookbuyer who is intended to cop McPherson's latest.

My hope is that it has been seven years of Gallagher the editor fighting McPherson the author. That is my hope. I am willing to bet on Editor Gallagher's integrity based on the quality of books UNC has released under his purview. I am fearful but confident. UNC has published good stuff under Gallagher's editorship. Getting McPherson into the "good" column is a task of more years than seven.

Let us see what we will see. My money is on Gallagher.


A million spammers on a million keyboards ...

... will eventually, inevitably come up with a Good Friday message.


"Lost Cause" posts compiled

Persistent interest in just two Lost Cause historiography posts suggests I add a few links to older posts.

This series is the best summary of my objection to Gary Gallagher & Co. attacking the straw man they call "Lost Cause history." Part 1 casts Gallagher & Co. as naively and sloppily attempting to do what the communist historian Hobsbawm has done much better. Part 2 identifies them, via Popper's insights, as consipracy theorists. Part 3 touches on the Voegelinian analysis of human experiences of order that invalidates their entire effort.
Popper, Hobsbawm and the Lost Cause - 1
Popper, Hobsbawm and the Lost Cause - 2
Popper, Hobsbawm and the Lost Cause - 3

A response to Kevin Levin who responded to the above:
Notes on the "Lost Cause"

An analysis of why the SCV cannot engage in a debate with "Lost Cause" critics due to the structure of the conversation:
The SCV's anti-debunking efforts (a lost cause)


Seward's foreigners (fin)

When we last left Seward, he was recruiting foreign officers for a "people's war" and our good friend George B. McClellan received word by letter that he was to vacate his general-in-chiefdom to make way for Gy├Ârgy Klapka (a future major general in the Prussian Army).

Klapka, for those too lazy to click the links I painstakingly provided yesterday, was a close, later associate of Louis (Lajos) Kossuth, the leader of the Hungarian Revolution, 1848-1849, and recipient of what would later be called a tickertape parade in New York in 1851.

Philip Figyelmessy (pictured), an ADC to Kossuth in '59 (during Garibaldi's Sicilian campaign), "came to America in 1861 to offer his sword to the Union. He was well supplied with letters of introduction, among which was one from Kossuth to Secretary Seward." So we read in Hungarians in the American Civil War.

The same source gives us this peek at a Seward-Kossuth interaction:
It is known that Secretary of State Seward conceived the idea of sending to Europe, in an unofficial capacity, three representative and influential men to meet the impending danger of foreign intervention. He chose for this mission Archbishop Hughes, Bishop McIlvaine and Mr. Thurlow Weed. It is less well known that he also sought to enlist the aid of Louis Kossuth.

This was a very natural idea, for, while he could not know then the inner history of Kossuth's relations to Napoleon and Cavour, he [Seward] did know that, in 1859, Kossuth had prevented the intervention of Great Britain in the Austro-Italian conflict through his speeches at public meetings in England and Scotland and his influence with the British Liberals, which caused the downfall of Lord Derby's cabinet.
Emphasis added!

Seward was recruiting veterans of the revolutions in Europe to gain political leverage with political celebrities who influence liberal opinion. The offers he made were to people close to opinion shapers.

Now let's do some speculation applying spotty memories. This is a blog, after all.

You recall I proposed that foreign conservatives were given to McClellan as staff and that revolutionaries went to Fremont. From what we remember about such assignments, a pattern seems to emerge.

The conservative foreign adventurers seem to represent kingdoms outside the nexus of intervention (Britain, France) and in fact number among those states generally opposed to France and Britain geopolitically. Consider Rosencrantz of Sweden, various Prussians, the French princes (pretenders to the throne of Napoleon III), the Russians and their fleets, which visited the North in displays of solidarity.

Seward was playing both internal politics and geopolitics against the potential interventionists. He strove for a grip on the liberal opposition within France and Britain while at the same time building influence with the conservative states that might work in combination with him against Franco-British designs.

Interesting, surely.

You shouldn't have to read material like this in a blog, for heaven's sake, but that's where we are in Civil War history.

(Part 1, Part 2)


Seward's foreigners (cont.)

So what was Seward up to?

Before getting one answer from Hungarians in the Civil War, let's drop in on McClellan's Own Story, a compilation of writings by GBM's literary executor.
Mr. Seward's policy of making ours a "people's war," as he expressd it, by drumming up officers from all parts of the world, sometimes produced strange results and brought us rare specimens of the class vulgarly known as "hard cases." Most of the officers thus obtained had left their own armies for the armies' good, although there were honorable and admirable exceptions such as Stah[e]l, Willich, Rosencranz, Cesnola, and some others. Few were of the slightest use to us, and I think the reason why the German regiments so seldom turned out well was that their officers were so often men without character.

Soon after Gen. Scott retired, I received a letter from the Hungarian Klapka informing me that he had been approached by some of Mr. Seward's agents to get him into our army, and saying that he thought it best to come to a direct understanding with with myself as to terms, etc. He said that he would require a bonus of $100,000 in cash and a salary of $25,000 per annum; that on his first arrival he would consent to serve as my chief of staff for a short time until he acquired the language, and that he would then take my place of general commanding-in-chief. He failed to state what provision he would make for me, that probably to depend upon the impression I made upon him.

I immediately took the letter to Mr. Lincoln, who was made very angry by it, and taking possession of the letter, said that he would see that I should not be troubled in that way again.
But they kept coming.
Cluseret - afterward Minister of War under the Commune - brought me a letter of introduction from Garibaldi, recommending him in the highest terms as a soldier, man of honor, etc. I did not like his appearance and declined his services; but without my knowledge or consent Stanton appointed him a colonel on my staff. I still declined to have anything to do with him, and he was sent to the Mountain Department, as chief of staff I think.
McClellan goes on to mention two German ADCs he liked, taken on at the request of a Prussian minister, and his high opinion of the famous French princes and their uncle (as you would expect).

But what does all this mean? Seward's game here is not too obscure, as we shall see.

(Photo of by Alexander Gardner of what appears to be part of Hooker's staff, L-R: Maj. D.S. "Peter" Ludlow, Ulric Dahlgren (standing); LTC Joseph Dickinson, AAG (recumbent); Graf Zeppelin of the Prussian Army, and McClellan's Swedish ADC, Lieutenant Frederick Rosencrantz. This site says FR "successively served Burnside, Hooker and Meade in the same capacity. His brave and genial disposition made him a universal favorite."


Seward's foreigners

One of the lamest digs against McClellan and Fremont is that they had large "glittering" staffs of foreigners, implying that this was ego gratification and an early warning sign of mental debility.

The better-read have some inkling that these foreign volunteers were foisted on Fremont and McClellan by the Lincoln Administration. Since governors appointed regimental commanders and would not surrender this patronage to strangers, and since foreign high-profile military volunteers were often the business of Mr. William Seward, Seward imposed upon McClellan and Fremont to accept otherwise unplaceable foreigners with military experience.

Why Fremont and McClellan? Without getting into some very interesting but detailed chronology, the short answer is that Fremont was Seward's client from his early appointment. Fremont's intake of foreign officers was immediate upon his arrival in St. Louis; McClellan's only began with GBM's federalization and transfer to Washington (after which Seward claimed him as a client). Seward had a third client, of course, the irascible Winfield Scott, but Scott was an outspoken opponent of enlarged staffs and would not be moved on what he considered points of principle.

The Seward-McClellan relationship is complex and worth a few posts in the future but the Fremont and Scott connections to Seward are easy to explain. The Seward-Weed team funded national Whig projects out of their rich New York political machine. They backed Winfield Scott's presidential run on the last Whig ticket. Scott was a creature of the old Whig political establishment - recall, he attended McClellan's wedding and I would say not based on interest in GBM, for it was Dr. McClellan (GBM's father) who was a linchpin in the Philadelphia and national Whig establishments and a major supporter of Scott's presidential run. (Thank you, Ethan Rafuse.) Recall, too, that in feuding with the Democratic Secretary of War, a certain Jefferson Davis, General-in-Chief Scott moved Army Headquarters from Washington to New York City, where it subsisted under the angel's wings of his Whig sponsors.

Weed and Seward also funded the national Republican Party in its early years and backed Fremont's presidential campaign against Buchanan and Fillmore - a reasonably close race run by a new party. The Fremont/Dayton ticket was impossible without Weed and Seward and this is likely the source of Seward's leverage.

The astute reader is lodging a protest at this point. "Every schoolchild in America knows that Fremont was the Blairs' candidate to replace General Harney." Of course they do, as do I. But I have a few untested ideas here: Fremont was the Blair's candidate by the contrivance of Seward who put Fremont's name forward. (Admission: I need to do more work on this.) Further, Seward let Fremont (and later McClellan) understand that the appointments were due to him. There are hints of how Seward worked these angles in Welles' diary: he took credit where credit was not due. He reaped where he did not sow. More grist for a future mill.

In sum, we see foreign officers assigned to the most prestigious staffs of those generals where Seward has leverage. The sheer volume of officers initially falls most heavily on Fremont, where the bloat is ridiculed by critics, and then later the deluge hits McClellan, with the attendant scoffing.

I would add another personal observation needing more research. It seems to me that Fremont gets the European revolutionaries and McClellan the European conservatives. If true, this again suggests a higher, guiding intelligence.

The question remains, what was Seward's motivation in these foreign appointments?

A lot of bits and pieces came together for me recently while reading Hungarians in the American Civil War, a forgotten and out-of-print book from the turn of the last century. Before going to the revelations in its footnotes, we'll look at McClellan's comic anecdotes about these interventions by Seward.