Anti-history Redux

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.


One of Grossman’s premises is that generally a species doesn’t kill it’s own species, with rare exception.

In the Civil War, as most wars afterwards until Vietnam and later, men did NOT want to kill OTHER men. So it was posture and submission. This rule, however, does NOT apply to crew served weapons - so artillery and machine guns - and interestingly snipers, whose targets were far enough away not to look human. It is not for no reason that Sherman said he’d rather have one Napoleon than a battalion of infantry.


I recall reading that surveys were done after WWII of combat infantry, and these found that roughly 25% of these men ever fired their rifles in battle. Bear in mind that these were men who had been in combat. There were changes to training to make the men more willing for fight/kill. So I think your point is correct.

I’ll have to find the book that cited these figures.


The original work was done by SLA Marshall. He collated results from both European and Pacific theatres, plus later did his studies on Korea. He was excoriated for his findings, but the Arrmy (of all people) changed their training to what they called “Two shot Quick kill”. It incorporated standing in a trench in full battle-rattle and having silhouettes pop up. You fired two shots at each. If you HIT them, they fell back; otherwise they slid back down. Extra liberty was granted to those who did well. Studies of RVN showed the same 5-15% of serious shooters EXCEPT in the Army, where shooting was about 92%. HUGE change from before. It too is in Grossman’s book.


As Lee said at Fredericksberg: It is fitting that war is so terrible, for we might grow to love it so.


“We” were never conceived as combatants in “wars”. That’s why we have the 2nd Amendment. We were conceived as a nation of traders, who may from time to time, be called upon to defend the nation. THAT is why the 2A is the basis of both the overall right to BE armed but to also have the right to self defense; it’s the same idea but on the one hand individual, and on the other collective… So in 1812, an unpopular war because the people didn’t really see a reason to be fighting with the Brits, when the Redcoats landed they pretty easily took DC and burned it. BUT when they decided to take Baltimore, the locals - a bunch of Quakers, for goodness sakes - decided it ain’t gonna happen - and soundly defeated a superior Redcoat force, probably the finest infantry of the time. Likewise in NO, Old Hickory similarly mutilated a far superior Redcoat force, with very few losses on his side.