Anti-history Redux

A few weeks ago @Seawriter reviewed “A Little History of Poetry”, which i quite enjoyed. There are a lot of “Little History “ books, and i went on to Gombrich’s “A Little History of the World” . ( i have long had Van Loon’s similar book at my bedside.)
In 213 BC, Gombrich tells me, China had a ruler named Shih Hung-Ti, who insisted on erasing all of his cointry’s prior history and literature, such as Confuscius. It was a crime to posess any such works. He was like Mustapha Mond in “Brave New World”.
“Shih Hung Ti’s banning of books was all in vain. it is a bad idea to try to prevent people from knowing their own history. If ypu want to do anytbing new, you must first make sure you know what people have tried before.”
…says Gombrich (in translation) After Shih’s fairly brief reign, people unearthed the old texts thay hqd hidden at great peril, and revered them even more than before.

So mote it be with CRT and our founding documents.


So mote it be with CRT and our founding documents.

And the history of Dixie.


“Dixie” is a critical part of our history, going from the Founding to present times. It is unfortunate they were so heavily invested in slavery. Calhoun, previously a rational man, made many statements that had no basis in fact or even experience.

That said, the South is strongly Scots-Irish. They have heavily provided the country with combat troops in all our wars. In the Civil War they did extremely well, considering their overall economic and development condition. They generally had better officers, probably a function of their societal overview. The butternut troops fought extremely well, although in truth not enough credit is given the “Blue Bellies” - they, too, fought well, died in large numbers, and most important - WON. This in no small part because Grant was THE BEST general - on either side. RE Lee gets many kudos but they’re mostly from a loyalty POV; his performance was mediocre at best, and had he not had Jackson, he would have done poorly indeed.

History is old, past, done. It has lessons for us, but ones we need to view carefully. But as Hyp says, you can’t just wipe it out. It is with you forever, good or bad. Much “history” - especially more modern history has been written to glorify a pol or some such, but interestingly, with time truth comes out. FDR was a scoundrel, though for a long time portrayed as some wonderkind; he was nothing of the sort and we are only now beginning to hear that. And about time.


I think your comments about Lee are very misstated. First off Lee’s first real campaign was the Battle of the 7 days. Here Lee completely outsmarted and out maneuvered McClellan despite being heavily outnumbered. McClellan made it to just about nine miles outside of Richmond when Lee took command of what would become the ARmy of Northern Virginia and in short order drove the Federals down the James peninsula and eventually out to sea and back to DC. Lee did all of this without Jackson, as he was on his own campaign keeping some four different Union commands busy in the Shannodoha Valley.

Lee was masterful with what he had, especially while in defensive positions. Lee was also a gambler, especially in the beginning. What military commander would have split his already outnumbered army TWICE to execute a complete route of the Army of the Potomac? Lee did this during the battle of Chancelorsville.

Lee’s mistakes were trying to go on the offensive twice–Antietnam and Gettysburg. It is true that Lee depended heavily on Jackson, but Lee was just as successful after Jackson’s death as he was during his life. In fact, Grant had zero success against Lee up to Petersburg, when the deprivation of men and supplies finally broke the Confederacy, not just Lee. Where Grant was different than the prior AoP generals was Grant didn’t run to DC after a defeat. Grant recognized that he had superior numbers and supply channels and simply marched forward after each defeat. You go look at the record. Up until the two armies met at Petersburg for the dress rehersal for WWI, Grant lost more men in each engagement than Lee did–its’ just that what Lee lost could not be replaced. Finally, keep in mind that in the battle of Cold Harbor, Lee’s men killed 7000 of Grant’s men in 20 minutes. That was in early 1864, an election year. Lincoln was expected to lose that election until Sherman took Atlanta in early November.

No Grant was not the best general in that war. He was good in that he was able to recognize what he had and what the Confederates did not have and could not get. Had McClellan not been so adverse to risk, that war could have been over in a year. But as it stood, each Union general would either retreat to DC after a loss or stagnate in camp after one of Lee’s offensives failed allowing Lee to escape back into Virginia. The interesting thought experiment would be to put Lee’s generals in charge of the AoP.

I frankly cannot think of a more prestigous and capable general corps than what the Army of NOrthern Virginia had during that war.
AP Hill
John Bell Hood (a Texan)
John Gordon
JEB Stuart
John Macgruder

That is an All-Star line-up. Very similar to the 1927 Yankees Murderers Row. Yeah I would like to see that drunkard go up against Lee with odds even. Lee would mop the floor with him and then do the windows with Sherman (a much more capable general in my opinion than Grant). But alas, as you say, they lost.


Oh please! Taking Lee’s “wins” against McClellan is like taking candy from a kid. McClellan was probably THE worst general on either side. He was a prototype of DDE - a glorified clerk who was good at organizing supplies, but sucked at combat leadership.

?Who among the various generals would have fought Antietam the way McClellan did. In some of the most intense combat to date, McClellan sat in Sharpsburg with at least 25,000 troops which he never used, despite the battle results being somewhat dicey for some time. ?What other general would have thrown some 45,000 troops (I think I have the number right, but I know it was a boatload) against Stonewall’s 6,500 piecemeal when a solid, unified attack would have swept Stonewall away.

On the other side, Lee had only two battles he absolutely HAD to win - Antietam and Gettysburg. He lost them both. In the first it meant England would not enter on the side of the South, and in the second, the NAoV was finally soundly and well defeated. Winning Gettysburg would have won the war for the South, and losing it, plus Vicksburg (Grant) got Lincoln re-elected.

As for your comments about Lee “beating” Grant around Richmond, it is a true fact that defense of the time had WAY more advantage than offense. What Grant brought to the party was an indominate will to win. When one attack failed, he slid sideways looking for a soft spot. NONE of the previous generals did that. McClellan allowed Lee to escape after Antietam and Meade was not really in full control of the AoP to keep Lee from getting away, although I could pick you several times Lee could have been devastated at Gettysburg. Indeed, he should never have fought at Gettysburg. It was Buford who egged Hill on when Lee, THE senior general, should have restrained Hill (the shoe factory had already been pillaged by Ewell) and moved on to Harrisburg per his original plan.

Your list is not nearly as good as you would have people believe. Only Jackson and Longstreet stand as seriously good generals - matches for Sherman and Sheridan. JEB Stuart managed to leave Lee blind during the crucial times leading up to Gettysburg, and he also managed to lose a cavalry action on the North’s right and rear flank (East Cavalry Field), beaten by Gregg despite having a significantly larger contingent of the famed Virginia cavalry. George Armstrong Custer was one of the principals on the Northern side, commanding a Michigan brigade and involved in two personally led charges against Stuart’s Virginians.

BTW, I do not dispute Lee’s behavior as being that of a true gentleman, while I am a bit disgruntled to hear your mischaracterization of Grant as a “drunkard”. That was a nasty misnomer Grant’s Union commanders put on him because he showed them up in battle, Halleck being chief among those, whose own history was totally insignificant. Halleck started all that after Shiloh, and kept it up throughout. It wasn’t true but when politics comes into play, truth goes out the window.


You basically said the same things I did.

Lee’s mistakes–huge in that they lost the South the war–were going on offense, twice.

Lee certainly benefited from McClellan’s stupidity, but then he also bested Hooker, Burnside, Pope. That’s a pretty good track record for someone whose military intellect you downplay. Beating McClellan alone is not a big feat, but beating the remaining of the generals tapped to lead the AoP outside of Meade and finally Grant is a pretty good record of success.

Stuart is a mixed bag for sure, but I think him a good general or at least the needle points more that way than not. Stuart became enamored with his own press I think. I can’t think of another rational explanation for the things you cite as his faults. However, Stuart did a great job of keeping the AoP from coelescing around Richmond in late 1862 into 63, so you gotta give credit there.

Gettysburg is, for me, the saddest of the battles because it need not have been a lost one. First, as I stated and I think you agreed, the battle should never have been fought. Second, Longstreet suggested on the second day, before Meade had solidified his positions on the Round Tops and along Cemetary Ridge, that Lee send his army south and around Meade positioning the ANVA between the Union and DC and on the high ground. This would have placed Lee in a defensive position and Meade would have had to attack. Instead, as Shelby Foote conveyed to us, Lee’s blood was up and he told Longstreet, “I am going to whip them here, or they are going to whip me.” Well we know what happened.

Halleck was a political general–we have many more of those today. But Grant was a drunkard. During Vicksburg, when the siege started a year (there abouts) before July 4, 1863, Grant began drinking–understandably out of boredom. Grant did not drink like that when on campaign, only during encampments or sieges. He also liked cigars, but then who doesn’t.

Ah Shiloh, how different would that battle have been had Albert Sydney Johnston not been killed in the first day. Beauregard was not a good general.

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One last thing. During Antietam, after the portion of the battle involving Jackson was over (the Corn Field) Jackson was spotted eating a peach and looked out over the field and said “The Lord has been very kind to us this day.” I think Jackson recognized what you did: how lucky could he have been to have a Union command not throw his entire force at Jackson and completely destroying Lee’s Left? The ANVA benefited from the stupidity of Union commanders and grace from God, but it also benefited from superior leadership.


Here you go Dev, let us not refight this war:

One more thing on Grant’s drinking. I have done Civil War re-enacting. I have been in the rows with musket on my shoulder and I have been in the middle of gigantic armies marching toward one another. Now granted it was all fake and we all went home afterwards, but I am here to tell you that in the midst of it you don’t know it is fake. It is hot, loud, confusing. Smoke bellows from every direction. All you hear is men yelling and cannons booming. Frankly, I would have rather had 1000 Falujahs as opposed to one Bull Run/Manassas. Had I seen the real thing as Grant did for four freaking years I would have been a drunk too. God bless those men simply for their bravery.


Certainly the leadership on the Southern side was good. Jackson was a pious man; he felt the grace of the Lord. Burnsides was much like Beauregard and McClellan and Halleck - an idiot.

You really should read more about Grant. He was not as his enemies depicted him and the best general on either side.

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I will say this about Grant and Sherman and Sheridan. They were all modern generals. What I mean by that is they understood that armies have to constantly be advancing, that breaking the citizenry of your enemy is the quickest way to victory, and depriving your enemy of the natural resources of the earth will also hasten victory.

Grant’s best quality–especially compared to his Northern colleagues–was his understanding that even after a loss you must advance. Shelby Foote explained this in the Ken Burns doc. when he demonstrated that Grant’s campaign against Lee was just a series of moves around Lee’s right flank (Grant’s left). Compare Grant’s 1864 campaign to Patton’s campaign across France in 1944/45. It’s the exact same mentality. Move forward.

Sherman, as we all know, was the first general that I can think of to make war explicitly against civilians. After Atlanta, Sherman destroyed the South’s agriculture to the extent that it existed at that point. Sherman was so successful that the South was in poverty up until about 1990! Fast forward to our bombing campaigns against the Germans and Japanese in WWII.

Sheridan, while Grant was going head to head with Lee, was in the Shannandoah Valley destroying corn crops, farms, all of it. It was said that a crow flying over the Valley would have to pack his own lunch because there was nothing left.

These are all modern military bedrock tactics now. At the time they were brand new and considered barbarous. Why do you think there has never been a re-enactment of Sherman’s March to the Sea? Just about everything else in that war has been re-enacted, but that will never be allowed in Georgia and South Carolina.

Sorry Hyp, we turned your thread into a Civil War debate.


You gents are far more erudite than i about Civil War Battles. But lets not forget it was about: slavery. Oh yes it was.
And our founding fathers had been raised in the plantation system too, as we now hear ad nauseum: Washington and Jeffwrson had SLAVES!
Yes tbey did, 5hey were born and bred. Into the plantation system. Yet unlike the Southerners 100 years later, thay were ableb to conceive that maybe slavery shouldnt last forever. I think people have forgotten how remarkable that was, in the 18th century where slavery was still pretty much global.


Hyp you are so right about the Founders (not so much the cause of the War). Read this and you will see a little bit of the thoughts on slavery during the very early days of the Republic.

St. George Tucker was a prominent legal scholar, Virginia Supreme Court Justice, and law professor at Will. & Mary. He is very Jeffersonian.

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Okay, here’s something that has nothing to do with the U.S. Second War of Secession.

I’m currently reading the third book of Karl Gallagher “Fall of the Censor” series, of which four volumes have been published so far. The series starts with Storm Between the Stars, and you can find the sequels from that page. Kindle editions of all are available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

The story is set in a future in which the diaspora from Earth has been taken over by the Censorate, among whose acts was bombarding Earth to extinction by asteroids to end its resistance to their power. There are no aliens in this universe, only human descendants of emigrants from Earth.

The Censorate practices an extreme form of “security through obscurity”. It tells its subjects that it rules the entire galaxy and has for millions of years. It records no history, keeps no documents, punishes anyone who researches history or the extent of the Censorate with summary death sentences, considers the mapping of navigable routes between the stars top secret, and destroys all of the work of writers, artists, musicians, and film makers immediately after their death. All books and other records which predate the Censorate have been destroyed. This allows a small cadre of Censorial officials, like the British Raj in India, to rule an unknown number of planets with large populations who live in ignorance of how the Censorate came to be and are isolated from one another and unable to organise resistance. The Censorate is widely hated, but the destruction of history induces passivity in a population who is told the Censorate is eternal and universal, and simply a fact of existence like gravity.

A shift in the fabric of hyperspace caused the star system of planet Fiera to be isolated from interstellar travel for a thousand years and never discovered or conquered by the Censorate. It developed along its own lines, never losing touch with its history, Earthly origins, or the cultural heritage of its ancestors. Another shift in hyperspace allows travel out into the larger galaxy, and a Fieran exploration ship makes contact with a planet of the Censorate and begins to learn the peculiarities of its society which has lost all connection with its past, its origins, and its heritage.

Over the series, this develops into a conflict between the Censorate, whose extent is unknown, and a sole planet whose only advantage is a knowledge of history. The Censorate discovers that while their policies make for stability, a docile population of tax cows filling their coffers, and few disruptions due to innovations, it also puts them at a distinct disadvantage because when situations arise, whether in battle, law, or politics, the Fierans can draw on millennia of human experience and knowledge gained from trial and error, while in the Censorate, wisdom acquired over a human life tends to die with the individual who gained it.

In the Censorate, as in China, there are secret societies who risk their lives preserving the few rare books and pieces of information that connect people to their past. When contact is made with the Fierans, they form the backbone of resistance to the Censorate.

It’s an interesting tale, with a mix of space opera and clash of cultures, and a look at where the erasure of history may lead and what motivates those seeking to accomplish it.


Dev and 1789 already made the points I would have, though Cold Harbor will always be a blot against Grant. Great job!

Though I would add this: 1789 says:

Yeah I would like to see that drunkard go up against Lee with odds even. Lee would mop the floor with him and then do the windows with Sherman (a much more capable general in my opinion than Grant).

I don’t know about that. It would have been a very different situation on the ground, and thus both sides would have fought differently. It may very well have been that neither Lee nor Grant would have been the right generals in such a situation. In short, they each played the hand they were dealt. We have no idea how they would have played very different hands.


Ancient wisdom: The battle may be lost in the General’s tent … but it can be won only on the front lines.

Was Rommel the best general in WWII, or did he have the best troops? It may be that success is the happy coincidence of an above-average general and above-average troops.


Oddly enough, I love the comparison of Rommel to Lee. Anyone who knows anything about Rommel–much like with Lee–will know that Rommel was no Jew hating Nazi. He was a gentleman and a military officer, which should sound familiar.

Thanks, Hypatia. Cheerful news: Gombrich is still in print, and our local librarians, at least, have not thrown out his books yet! As part of my ongoing library-book rescue policy, I have just successfully ordered on ILL the Little History of the World plus The Story of Art.

Now thanks to you I have to find an additional bedside table and practice leaping over bedside tables of books in order to get into and out of bed.


There they stand my bedside books, out of a house crammed with codices the special ones i always want to be able to find, two shelves and ten or so between bookends on the windowsill, Faded by the sun, the windowsill ones; seasoned campaigners. Sentinels between me and the dark outside, my bodyguards, my mindguards. Nobody will want them nor care for them when i am gone. But if THEY were gone from their station:
O! The difference to me!


Re-enactments are great showmanship but not a substitute for real combat. BUT you fail to understand one of the realities of Civil War combat - that 80-90% of the men - on both sides - did NOT want to kill anyone, friend or foe. So much of the noise and thunder was just that. You absolutely need to read Lt. Col. Grossman’s On Killing. It is a SERIOUS dive into the inherent drive of men to fight, etc. I experienced what Grossman speaks about in the jungles and paddies of Vietnam. I could NOT, for the life of me, understand why we Marines didn’t get more kills than we did. We were tougher, better trained, arguably better armed. But I’m in that 5-15% that is williing to kill another man; we are NOT anywhere NEAR the majority of men. Read that book - PLEASE! You will get a whole different perspective on men and battle. And how it’s different today.


I’ve read that in WWII, the great majority of combat deaths resulted from artillery as opposed to directly shooting/bayoneting an enemy soldier one-on-one. This made killing remote from the actions of the artillery crew - impersonal killing at a distance on an industrial scale, it seems. Am I seeing it correctly? Today’s drone killings seem intermediate between these two. It represents a slightly less impersonal killing than shooting someone directly. In the experience of the operators, I suppose it most resembles their experience of video games.