Sunday, July 29, 2012

Causes and Commitments

As to why the "South" fought, it wasn't for slavery. If we asked them as Fiver suggests we would be given the "Lost Cause" philosophy. The Lost Causers believed the war was fought for "freedom." The constitution was written in such a way that secession was permitted. Lincoln was denying a provision of the constitution when he denied the right of South Carolina to secede.

The South had a slave-based economy, this is true, but the understanding that slavery was wrong was growing slowly in the world. Slaves were brought to the New World mostly by the British; then the British became enlightened and declared slavery wrong. They outlawed it. But they didn't have a slave-based economy like the one they fostered in the American South.

Also, Social Darwinism was an important influence in the Western World. Darwin wrote Origin of Species in 1859 and it didn't take long before others applied the ideas of evolution to peoples. "Maybe we shouldn't enslave anyone anymore because slavery is cruel, but we all know that White People have evolved further than Black People and are therefore superior." It took a long time for that idea to be discredited.

The conclusive "proof" that no "race" is superior to any other has been generated by modern-day genetic science. The differences between the "races" are so tiny in genetic terms as to be considered inconsequential. But back in antebellum days that "proof" wasn't available. Instead there were persuasive arguments that the "Caucasian Race" was superior to all others. Anyone wanting further proof was invited to look about him in the world and they would see the differences.

Also, in most antebellum minds the human species was only a few thousand years old. The idea of an evolutionary span of time covering 200,000 years (a current approximation of the life-span of homo sapiens) didn't exist. So the differences antebellum people saw as they looked about them were more permanent and entrenched in their thinking then we can easily conceive of today.

At some point there was other evidence that "whites" were not necessarily individually superior to "blacks." Give a black person the same education as you give white people and a black person may end up first in his class. There are individual differences but they aren't dependent upon "race."

Later on, after the war, the Lost Causers emphasized the "culture" of the antebellum South. "Culture" is an argument and it is still being waged in the world. Not so very long ago, Martin Heidegger urged the Germans to seek their Cultural roots because Germans were destined (according to his view of that culture) to lead their European brethren to "greatness." Heidegger had a benign view of that "greatness," and when he saw that the other members of the Nazi party he had joined gave it an ugly turn he quit supporting it, but the less philosophical of those Nazis played out their belief in Cultural superiority in what we know of as World War II.

And in even more recent times we can find persuasive arguments suggesting that Western Civilization is superior to other Civilizations (using Samuel P. Huntington's definitions). Huntington himself didn't argue that the Western Civilization was "superior," but he was very much a Westerner in a sense that the Lost Causers would understand: This is our culture. We want to preserve it, and we will fight to do so. Huntington saw "clashes" going on between the Civilizations, e.g., the current Clash between "The West" and "The Islamic" Civilizations, indefinitely.

Perhaps at some future time there will a different and superior view about these Civilizations and their clashes, but for now we are in the midst of them and if our Western Leaders call for a war, Western young men will flock to the recruiting offices and volunteer to fight it. We all live in this "climate of understanding" and can't break free from it any more than those in the antebellum south could break free from the understanding they had.

Furthermore we have no wish to break free from our understanding. For example, there was once the belief in the U.S. that Soviet victory in the Cold War was inevitable. Therefore the argument went, let us accept that reality, for after all we are better off "red than dead." There was a minority who held that view, even among those who believed the Soviets would win the Cold war, but most didn't want to see Western Civilization replaced by Orthodox [Huntington's term for the "Eastern Orthodox" civilization led by Russia] Civilization and were willing to "fight" to preserve our Western ways.

Various historians have poured over writings, letters, memoirs and come away with the belief that Confederate soldiers, both officers and enlisted, were not fighting for the preservation of slavery. They were fighting for the preservation of their antebellum culture. Interestingly, when they poured over the same sort of writings, letter, and memoirs of soldiers fighting for the Union, they found that they weren't fighting to overthrow slavery. Most Northern soldiers wouldn't have enlisted if they were told the war was being fought to abolish slavery.

As an indication of where we are in terms of Western or more specifically American "culture," Walter Russell Mead wrote a fine book entitled Special Providence, American Foreign Policy and How it Changed the World. In it he classifies Americans into several categories. The Category applicable to the current discussion is the "Jacksonian." These are the people who rush to the recruiting office to sign up for wars, but they need to be convinced by a couple of the other categories that the wars are just. The Jacksonians believe in the right to bear arms and are often referred to as "Red Necks." Mead has drawn attention to the fact that a majority of Blacks now fit into this category.

Perhaps the North or the South should be viewed as completely right or completely wrong. Perhaps the first book we pick up won't disabuse us of our preconception, but if we keep picking them up sometimes we see the other guy's point of view and can imagine that if we were raised in his time and place that we would probably have believed and behaved just as he did.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

McPherson on Lee & Longstreet at Gettysburg

On pages 77-86 of This Mighty Scourge, Perspectives on the Civil War, pages is the chapter "To Conquer a Peace? Lee's Goals in the Gettysburg" Campaign. In it James McPherson presents an explanation (argument) for what Lee intended in invading Pennsylvania. First of all he describes Lee's "after action account" which McPherson doesn't believe:

Lee describes 5 objectives of his invasion of Pennsylvania:

1) to draw the Union Army of the Potomac away from the Rappahannock River Line.
2) To take the initiative away from the enemy and disrupt any offensive plans General Joseph Hooker might have had for the rest of the summer.
3) To drive Union occupation forces out of Winchester and the lower Shenandoah Valley.
4) To draw Union forces away from other theaters to reinforce Hooker.
5) To take the armies out of war-ravaged Virginia and to provide the Army of Northern Virginia with food, forage, horses, and other supplies from the rich agricultural countryside of Pennsylvania.

McPherson comments that if these were indeed Lee's only objectives then he achieved all of them and the Battle of Gettysburg was a great success. [I wonder what the "Lost Cause" people do with Lee's goals.]

But McPherson doesn't believe Lee. Lee read in Northern newspapers that the Union Command at Antietam had access to Lee's Special Orders No. 191; which solved the mystery of how McClellan had moved more aggressively than Lee anticipated. So Lee's low impression of Union leadership returned. Antietam was just a fluke. The Pennsylvania invasion was a guaranteed success.

McPherson then develops the argument that Lee "might have made," and perhaps did make to Davis. McPherson refers to a letter Lee sent his wife saying "if successful this hear, next fall there will be a great change in public opinion at the North. The Republicans will be destroyed & I think the friends of peace will become so strong that the next administration will go in on that basis.' Here indeed [McPherson writes] was a bold strategic vision. It was not limited to a mere raid to take the armies out of Virginia and obtain supplies."

McPherson also quotes General Isaac Trimble who "remembered" and wrote down 20 years after the fact the following words from Lee: "when they hear where we are, they will make forward marches . . . probably through Frederick, broken down with hunger and hard marching, strung out on a long line and much demoralized, when they come into Pennsylvania. I shall throw an overwhelming force on their advance, crush it, follow up the success, drive one corps back on another, and by successive repulses and surprises, before they can concentrate, create a panic and virtually destroy the army. . . the war will be over and we shall achieve the recognition of our independence."

McPherson quotes the Richmond Examiner from early July to say "The present movement of General Lee will be of infinite value as disclosing the easy susceptibility of the North to invasion. Not even the Chinese are less prepared by previous habits of life and education for martial resistance than the Yankees. We can carry our armies far into the enemy's country, exacting peace by blows leveled at his vitals."

So Lee went ahead even though he had no word from Jeb Stuart, the Union Army wasn't where he thought it was, and Hooker no longer led it. Davis on Lee's promise sent vice president Alexander Stephens to Lincoln to be on hand to accept Lincoln's capitulation. Lee could not fail, and since he could not he had to use up huge numbers of his soldiers in order to make his promise come true.

In regard to Longstreet, McPherson writes, "Lee won over Davis and Seddon. Most interesting of all, he won over Longstreet, who now agreed with Lee than an invasion of Pennsylvania offered the best opportunity 'either to destroy the Yankees or bring them to terms,' as Longstreet wrote to Senator Lois Wigfall of Texas on May 13. If the defensive-minded Longstreet could talk like this, it seems even more likely that the offensive-minded Lee went north looking for that Confederate Austerlitz of Jena-Auerstadt. Longstreet later claimed he had extracted a promise from Lee that he could maneuver in such a way as to fight only on the tactical defensive in Pennsylvania. As Stephen Sears comments, however, 'that of course was nonsense.' Lee might have been willing to fight on the tactical defensive if he could do so on ground under conditions that gave him the opportunity to win the kind of victory he felt had eluded him at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville -- but he certainly could not have made such a binding promise to Longstreet. And almost everything Lee said or did in Pennsylvania indicated that he had always meant to keep the initiative by attacking."

McPherson's thesis can't afford for Longstreet to be telling the truth; so Longstreet's recollection becomes "nonsense," however modern linguistic theory has demonstrated that communication is exceedingly difficult and complex. Longstreet because of his presuppositions may very well have believed Lee gave him a promise. Lee on the other hand being the diplomatic fellow that he was may have couched his words in such a way as to make Longstreet happy without hamstringing his ability to maneuver and do what needed to be done once the battle started. These positions don't need to be one way or the other. Both can be true.

The same sort of thing would describe the disparity between Lee's "after action" account and the comments he made to Davis, Seddon and Trimble prior to the battle. Lee would have had all those things in mind. He was a flexible commander and surely would have considered all the possibilities including what he would salvage if he didn't succeed in an all-out military victory.

Why wouldn't he have described all the possibilities to Lee and Seddon? When do any of us describe all the possibilities about anything we plan? Or perhaps he put these goals in such a light as to make them seem hardly worth mentioning. We don't need to consider Lee a liar if he emphasized his 'best-case" scenario to Davis, Seddon and General Isaac Trimble but in his after-battle report described something considerably more modest. We don't operate on the simplistic level of having one plan and only one plan for a complex activity. We have multiple goals and plans. We develop a list of pros and cons. And there is seldom an occasion for presenting all of one's thoughts regarding these pros and cons to anyone, and there will never be just one "pro."

Friday, July 27, 2012

It wasn’t just the generals

There was a myth accepted in both the South and the North that the South, especially Virginia was settled by descendants of the Normans while the North was settled by Saxons. "The Lee tradition," McMurry writes on pages 5-6, "early became united with the long-standing plantation myth to create the image of the Army of Northern Virginia as a group of cavaliers whose gallantry, chivalry, education, heritage, wealth, background, knightly manners, courage, and 'breeding' set them apart from and a notch or two above other Americans and even other Southerners. Lee's men in Virginia were romanticized and made the epitome of what white Southerners fancied themselves to be. G. F. R. Henderson . . . wrote of Lee's soldiers sitting around their campfires in the winter of 1862-63 studying Latin, Greek, mathematics, and even Hebrew as they awaited the coming of the spring campaign."

On page 44 45 McMurry writes, Richard Devon Watson, Jr., in his book The Cavalier in Virginia fiction, has traced the development of the 'myth of the Old Dominion.' 'The most potent and evocative projection of the mythical aristocrat,' he writes, 'has been the Virginia Cavalier,' who became 'the most magnetic symbol' of the aristocratic ideal. So strong was this myth that thirty years before the Civil War the figure of the Virginia cavalier as the embodiment of medieval knightly virtues was solidly embedded in the American mind. 'By 1832,' writes Watson, 'there were precious few minds capable of being objective about Virginia, and in the following three decade objectivity in Virginia fiction vanished altogether.' . . The Old South in general, and Virginia in particular, was Arthur's Camelot reincarnated in nineteenth-century America. The cavaliers were latter-day Knights of the Round Table.

"In contrast to the Southern cavalier stood the 'Yankee' -- the symbol of the North in general but especially of the northeast and even more especially new England. The Yankee was depicted in American fiction as the churlish, greedy, grasping offspring of materialistic, low-class Saxons. . . Such financial and industrial careers as Northerners were likely to pursue thus combined with their genetic (or 'racial') characteristics to weaken the soldierly virtues of courage and self-discipline. In the nineteenth century, then, the assumption was that industry weakened a nation's military strength and made its people unfit for warfare. (This assumption was a major reason why so many Confederates were not dismayed by the economic statistics contrasting the relative wealth of North and South.)"

And then on page 48 McMurry writes, "The crushing Yankee defeats at First Manassas on 21 July 1861 and at Balls Bluff three months later convinced many in the North that 'the old fears of Southern military skill and preparations were justified.' 'The invincibility of landed society seemed apparent."

The situation in the West was entirely different. The Northern soldier there may have heard of the myth, but soldiers from Ohio and Illinois believed their association with the land (as opposed to business) made them immune to Eastern Yankee effeteness. Conversely the Confederate solders in the West were for the most part not from Virginia. Thus, their sense of superiority was deficient. They weren't convinced they were that much better than the Western Yankees.

Also, the Confederate Generals in the West were for the most part not from Virginia. Bragg, for example, was from North Carolina. Just as Hooker hesitated in the face of Stonewall Jackson and his Virginians; so did Bragg far too often hesitate in the face of soldiers from Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Those Yankees didn't fit the myth. The loss of battles in the West didn't entirely hinge upon the competency of Bragg, Johnston & Beauregard. The Western Confederate Army itself didn't possess the mythological prowess of the Army of Northern Virginia. Neither was the Union Army they faced subject to the Eastern Yankee's Army sense of inferiority.

Where were the best generals fighting?

In Two Great Rebel Armies, Richard McMurry concentrates upon the differences between the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee.

One reason the Army of Northern Virginia was so successful is that it had the best generals in the Confederacy, i.e., Lee, Longstreet, Jackson and Stuart. It was the Confederacy's "A Team." Another reason is that the Union wasn't using its "A Team" to oppose them, i.e., McDowell, McClellan, Pope, Burnside and Hooker.

The Confederacy knew what it was doing, or at least thought it did. Virginia was the Confederacy in the eyes of many. And while some have argued that Davis made a mistake by not concentrating his best forces in the West, an interesting argument could be made for abandoning the West and concentrating all its forces in Virginia where the Confederacy's A Team was virtually invincible. After all "winning" for the Confederacy meant avoiding defeat by Union forces and if the Army of Northern Virginia had "all" military forces at its disposal perhaps that goal could have been achieved.

Of course Jefferson Davis would have said that approach was out of the question. Even if it made military sense it would have been a political disaster. So the A Team continued winning more than it lost in Virginia while the B Team lost battle after battle in the West.

One of the reasons the Army of Tennessee had trouble winning battles was that none of its commanding generals was first-rate. Albert Sidney Johnston relied too much upon subordinates and let battles get away from him. P. G. T. Beauregard had grandiose schemes that perhaps not even the Army of Northern Virginia could carry out. Joseph E. Johnston was slow, cantankerous and unimaginative. John Bell Hood was unintelligent, unqualified to lead an army and rash. [all of this according to McMurry]

The second reason the Army of Tennessee had trouble winning battles is that it faced (although apparently unbeknownst to Union leadership) the Union's A Team, i.e., Grant, Sherman, Thomas and Sheridan.

Apparently some historians have discussed creating a computer program that would pit Grant, Sherman, Thomas and Sheridan against Lee, Longstreet, Jackson and Stuart. McMurry rather cleverly suggests that they might also create a program that pits McClellan, Pope, Burnside and Hooker against Joseph E. Johnston, Bragg, Hood and Pillow.

Bragg & Longstreet in Cozzens & Hallock

Cozzens in The Shipwreck of their Hopes, The Battles for Chattanooga, as was previously mentioned, has a chapter entitled "Everyone here Curses Bragg." Cozzens as I must admit after finishing Hallock's biography of Bragg (which Cozzens references btw) is just as hard on Bragg as she is. Cozzens doesn't try to put Bragg's actions in the best light (which Hallock does whenever she can fine any such light; which isn't always), he uses whatever logical light seems to be shining on each event, but he does produce people who might almost serve as scapegoats.

In Hallock's case, she is extremely critical of Bragg's cavalry and Longstreet. Cozzens sticks to Longstreet. I must confess that after reading about the "Lost Cause" and its mythological exaltation of R. E. Lee and its equally mythological demonizing of Longstreet I am suspicious of anything that smacks of excessive criticism of Longstreet, and much of what Cozzens writes about Longstreet in The Shipwreck smacks of that myth.

One factor that appeared in both Hallock and Cozzens is gratuitous criticisms of Longstreet's motives. On the one hand Bragg screws up time and time again. Yes, he may be screwing up because he is sick, but neither Hollock nor Cozzens deny his screw-ups. Also, Bragg issues one screwy order after the other. Not all of his orders are wrong, but a lot of them are; also he keeps changing his mind and issuing countermanding orders. Neither Hallock nor Cozzens deny this. But when they turn to Longstreet they criticize his "ambition" for thinking he could do a better job than Bragg. They also criticize Longstreet and other generals for not following Bragg's instructions to the letter when those instructions would have turned out to be efficacious.

Think of The Caine Mutiny and of Lt. Cmder Francis Queeg (played by Humphrey Bogart in the 1954 movie) rolling those little ball bearings in his hand while taking his whole crew to task over some missing ice cream. Then think of Lt Steve Maryk (played by Van Johnson) as his first mate making the decision to remove him when the ship was in danger of being destroyed in a storm. The script-writer's decisions in Maryk's later trial is relatable to Bragg & Longstreet. Queeg is declared to be as incompetent as Maryk thought he was, but then Queeg's commendable record is trotted out in order to shame Maryk and the others for what they believed themselves compelled to do. The historians I've read describe Bragg as being similarly incompetent, but heap shame upon Longstreet, Hill & others for trying to take command out of his hands. Interestingly, the script writers kept fairly close to human nature by causing Maryk to remove Queeg from command before the ship sank. In the case of Bragg at Chattanooga, his crew attempted to get Davis to remove him before the army's "ship" sank, but Davis wouldn't back them up. And so the "ship," at least in terms of the battle at Chattanooga and Bragg's military career, did sink.

Cozzens and Hallock, but not just them, freely psychoanalyze Bragg, Longstreet and the other main actors at Chickamauga and Chattanooga. There is little or no evidence to support their opinions about the motives of Bragg, Longstreet & others, but they do it regularly. One is especially bothered by it when one reads a historian presenting an opposite point of view about motives. Then it is possible to (somewhat) clearly see historians taking the same events and ascribing opposing motives to the actors. They can't both be right and the "evidence" doesn't actually preclude either opinion. In histories of other events, I have read historians scrupulously distinguishing between the events and their interpretations and opinions about them. Often, they will say that Historian A, B & C say X but I believe Y. I appreciate that sort of candor, but it seems absent in many if not most of the books I've thus far read on the Civil War.

If Longstreet was the devil then an historian might be safe in ascribing evil intentions to all his acts, but when we look at Longstreet's whole life we see (IMO) a very different individual, one who always tried to do what was right regardless of consequences. He may have been naive enough to think that historians would eventually see him for the conscientious fellow he was, but that has occurred only in the wake of modern historians who have examined his actions in great detail and produced a few books seemingly little read. For the rest, including apparently Cozzens, they continue to view Longstreet as the devil -- not it is true as malevolent a devil as he appears in Lost Cause writings, but a devil none the less.

Hallock, Bragg, Longstreet & Forrest

I am 104/273 through Judith Hallock's Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat, Volume II. I read up through Hallock's account of Chickamauga and Bragg's subsequent controversies with his chief lieutenants. I was appalled at her treatment of Longstreet. Oh yes, I had encountered "Lost Cause" writers before but I didn't expect a historian writing a book on Bragg in 1991 to be one. For example, Cozzens (in his History of Chickamauga) describes Longstreet's penetration of Rosecrans right wing and of his racing back to Bragg to request additional troops so he could pursue that portion of the army which was fleeing before him. Bragg, Cozzens reports, didn't believe Longstreet and only wanted to talk about Polk's refusing to obey orders.

Hallock, tellingly tells us that previous historians have mistakenly relied upon Longstreet which automatically makes Longstreet's account false. Of course one would have to rely upon Longstreet because he was the one whose troops routed Rosecrans right wing. Who else would be asking Bragg for troops . . . but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Hallock tells us that it was Bragg's "brilliant" order which caused the routing of Rosecrans right wing. Oh, yes, Longstreet did okay in following orders but that was all.

As to why Bragg didn't permit pursuit of the fleeing Federals? Well that was because it wasn't known that the whole Federal Army had left the field until the next morning. She even sites Longstreet saying that he expected to encounter Federal troops in the morning, therefore what he said about pursuit must be wrong. But he never said he routed the whole federal army, just the right wing and it was that right wing, those fleeing troops which Hallock doesn't mention but can hardly deny that Longstreet wanted to pursue.

Hallock sort of alludes to this with a gratuitous (assuming she has successfully demolished the traditional view that Longstreet routed the Federals Right Wing on his own volition and wanted to pursue it) conclusion that everyone in Bragg's army was too worn out to engage in any pursuit.

I was so disappointed in what I was reading from Hallock that I checked to see if she had written anything else thinking this book might have been so denigrated (except by David Powell who seems to have found inspiration in Hallock), but no, she wrote a book on Longstreet. Eight people wrote reviews of Hallock's book on Longstreet. All eight gave her book the worst possible rating. One person called it "Lost Cause Propaganda," which is what I would expect based on the way she treated Longstreet in her book on Bragg.

She also takes a nontraditional view about the confrontation between Forrest and Bragg in which Forrest insults Bragg in order to force him to approve his transfer. I read of this confrontation in several books, but she says the source of that story is not to be believed. She says Bragg got rid of Forrest because he wasn't doing a good job. He was after all merely a partisan raider.

I wonder what Grady McWhiney, who was too nauseated to finished his projected Volume II but instead turned the project over to his graduate student Judith Hallock. On the back cover of Hallock's book he writes "Hallock has undertaken the difficult task of explaining a complex, sick, cantankerous, and unpopular Confederate general who failed as a field commander yet became military adviser to President Jefferson Davis. Her biography is especially satisfying because, without being overly sympathetic or critical, she makes Bragg not into a hero but into an understandable person. She . . . depicts Bragg with warts and all and thereby achieves what every biographer hopes to accomplish -- a good understanding of her subject."

Was McWhiney being disingenuous? Probably not. Hallock wouldn't agree that Bragg failed as a field commander because of anything he didn't do but because his troops wouldn't obey him. But Hallock would reword that slightly to say he failed as a field commander because he couldn't command his chief lieutenants; which is a failure. A general has to have the respect and obedience of his lieutenants and any General who doesn't have it can be said to fail . . . I recall that John Bell Hood was given last minute responsibility for Franklin and didn't get wholehearted support from his lieutenants. I am tempted to excuse Hood but not Bragg, but only because Bragg had a lot more time to shape his army than Hood did.

Hallock does describe all the "warts." I must admit that, and she doesn't pretty all of them up -- but she does pretty up enough of them to make me reach for the Alka Seltzer.

General Manigault on Bragg’s Cavalry

Judith Hallock in her Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat, Volume II, pp 23-24 references Brigadier General Arthur Middlton Manigault in both the OR XXIII and in a biography of him edited by R. Lockwood Tower for much of the following:

"Throughout the campaign, Bragg had been poorly served by his cavalry, a serious drawback, as Civil War generals relied upon the cavalry to keep them informed of enemy movements. Morgan's ill-fated raid into Ohio against orders constituted only the first instance of the cavalry's poor performance. The cavalry on the scene left much to be desired. In one request for information, Bragg admonished Wheeler, 'Try and get it soon and accurate.' After being surprised by the enemy early in the campaign, a regimental commander sarcastically reported, 'I had been led to believe that this cavalry was vigilant and would give timely notice of the approach of an enemy. The enemy surprised this invincible cavalry, and to use their language) rode over them.' General Arthur M. Manigault speculated that the blame for the results of the Tullahoma campaign could be placed on the cavalry. He believed that Bragg did not give battle because of the cavalry's failure to furnish him with reliable information. Manigault concluded his critique of the cavalry with a sweeping condemnation: 'It often appeared to me that many of our failures or misfortunes arose from our lamentable deficiency in this branch of the service.'"

The biography Hallock references is A Carolinian Goes to War: The Civil War Narrative of Arthur Middleton Manigault, Brigadier General, C.S.A., ed. R. Lockwood Tower (Colombia, S.C., 1983). While it might seem that everyone in Bragg's army was against him, I have seen hints that perhaps more of his army was for him than was against him, but not at the highest most-influential levels. Most of those guys wanted him out.

So could Manigault have been one of the lower-level officers who supported Bragg? Tower's book is still in print and sold by both and I just bought a used copy for under $4.00.

I couldn't find out much about Manigault on the internet but Edward Longacre in Faust's Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War has this to say about him:

"Manigault, Arthur Middleton. CSA b. Charleston, SC., 26 Oct. 1824. The son of a well-to-do rice planter, Manigault received a solid education but left the College of Charleston in 1841 to enter the export business. In 1846 he fought in Mexico as a lieutenant in the Palmetto Rifles, a commission he won through his experience as a sergeant major of militia. After serving under Winfield Scott, which he considered 'perhaps the happiest and most romantic period' of his life, he returned to Charleston and worked as a commission merchant till the outbreak of civil war.

"When his state seceded Dec. 1860, Manigault was elected captain of a local company of mounted riflemen. He went on staff duty, serving as inspector general to Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was at Beauregard's side during the bombardment of Fort Sumter. 6 weeks later he became colonel of the 10th South Carolina Infantry . . ."

In the Spring of 1862 "he and his regiment were sent to Mississippi to join the Army of Tennessee.

"For the remainder of the war, he served in the West, from the outset as a brigade commander. He fought conspicuously at Corinth, Stone's River (where his command ably supported the center of the Confederate line), and Chickamauga (where his troops menaced the Union left under Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas). On 26 Apr 1863 he was elevated to brigadier general, a promotion whose long delay he attributed to the influence of his family's enemies in the Confederate War Department.

"During the 1864 Atlanta campaign, Manigault was wounded at Resaca but fought through to Ezra Church. Later that year he served under John Bell Hood until again wounded, this time severely, at Franklin. The prolonged effects of this wound eventually caused his death 17 August 1886 at South Island, S.C. . . ."

It wouldn't seem from Longacre's brief biography that Manigualt had a lot to do with Bragg but he probably had some contact and he would have been able to judge the wisdom of what he and his brigade were instructed to do.

While Judith Hallock's book was touted by David Powell as presenting Bragg in a more favorable light than any other of his biographies, she hasn't exactly glossed over any of his failures as far as I've read (to page 50). She does however describe him as being sick during those times. Also, she uses some of his failures as evidence that he must have been sick.

I'm tempted to think that if he was sick he should have "recused" himself (or whatever the proper term is in this case). A baseball pitcher who developed a sore pitching arm might be excused for trying to work through the pain for an inning or so, but if he couldn't get anyone out the responsible thing for him to do would be to confess his ailment to his manager and be replaced by someone else. But it seems as though most of the top Confederate Generals were sick a lot of the time, and maybe a sick Bragg was better than some lesser general in Davis' (who was also sick a lot of the time) view.

General Bragg’s present reputation

In a biographical note on page 372 of Jefferson Davis and his generals (published 1990), Steven Woodworth writes "Biographies of individual generals have proved far more useful, and several are worth of mention. Grady McWhiney's Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat (New York: Colombian University Press, 1969) corrects many of the more outrageous denunciations of Bragg but unfortunately carries Bragg's story only as far as Murfreesboro."

In the introduction to Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat, Volume II (published 1991), Judith Lee Hallock writes, "Recently, Richard M. McMurry published a book of essays explaining why the eastern armies of the Confederacy have received more attention than those of the West. One of the reasons, he contended, is that the western armies simply did not have charismatic generals, and he used Braxton Bragg's biographer to support his point. '[Grady] McWhiney found his subject so nauseous that he abandoned the project after completing only the first of a projected two volumes,' McMurry wrote. 'At last report he had turned the disgusting Bragg over to a graduate student.'

"I [Judith Lee Hallock tells us] was that graduate student."

I am as prone to abandoning projects which become nauseous as McWhiney but I am intrigued by Hallock's implied intent, i.e., to make Bragg less nauseous; so perhaps I'll continue on for awhile.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Failure of the Confederate Command

I wonder whether David Powell got the inspiration for his title, Failure in the Saddle, from Steven Woodworth's "The Failure of Confederate Command in the West." Woodworth, rather than heaping his primary blame on the generals singles Jefferson Davis out for that distinction. The full title of Woodworth's book is Jefferson Davis and his Generals, The Failure of Confederate Command in the West.

Most people, perhaps, in reading about Bragg have wondered why Davis didn't fire him, and all the historians I've read deal with that issue. Historians who put Davis in the best light tell us that he was extremely loyal to the friends he made at West Point and in the Mexican War. Woodworth puts this matter in a slightly different light. The individuals Davis favored to lead the Confederate army were men he admired not necessarily men he was friends with. In addition, Davis didn't like to admit he was wrong about anything. Perhaps most of us are that way to some degree, but Davis, according to Woodworth, was that way to an almost pathological degree.

Davis's first failure, if we don't count General Pillow who was thrust upon him by political necessity, was Polk. Polk was a couple of years above Davis and in the same class as Albert Sydney Johnston, whom Davis would have chosen were he not way over on the other side of the continent in California. Soldiers were being signed up in both North and South for a very short war and Johnston, Davis believed, wouldn't be able to traverse the continent in such short period of time -- if at all. Federal Command offered Generalship of the Union Army first to Robert E. Lee. When he refused they offered it to Albert Sydney Johnson. That is a strong indication of how the Union leadership perceived Johnston. Believing as they did, they would try their best to keep Johnston from joining Confederate forces in Richmond. They sent out a number of small forces to look for him as he made the difficult journey overland.

Bragg didn't feel he could wait for Johnston. Besides, he thought the influential Episcopalian Bishop Leonidas Polk would probably work as well at reigning in the impulsive General Pillow who "lacked judgment," Woodworth tells us, "to direct his seemingly boundless energy."

Kentucky, who was Pillow's and Polk's immediate concern, was fairly evenly balanced between believers in Union and Secession. Then Fremont made the blunder which would have driven Kentucky into the hands of the south. He "ordered one of his subordinates, an unprepossessing brigadier general by the name of U.S. Grant, to take some troops and seize Columbus. Had Fremont sat down and contrived a scheme to drive Kentucky into the arms of the Confederacy, he could hardly have done better."

"If Polk could leave well enough alone for a few more days, Confederate victory might be much closer without a battle being fought." But, Woodworth tells us "Polk could not." Polk and Pillow decided to beat Grant to Columbus; which they did. "The operation had been a complete success. At the same time it was one of the most decisive catastrophes the Confederacy ever suffered. Kentucky's neutrality had been resoundingly flaunted. A Confederate army had not only entered Kentucky territory, it had possessed itself of a Kentucky town and was busily setting up fortifications there as if it intended to remain on a permanent basis -- which indeed it did. With the demise of Kentucky neutrality went whatever profit the Confederacy might have reaped from the blunders of Fremont. As if all that were not enough, Polk, having occupied Columbus, was slow in seizing Paducah, and U.S. Grant, a man who understood the importance of rapid movements, beat him there and seized the town, making Columbus a worthless position that had to fall whenever the North got around to pushing on its exposed flank."

Kentucky Governor Harris "was aghast at what Polk had done," and urged Davis to have Polk withdraw his forces from Columbus. "Harris was right," Davis apparently realized, "But what if Polk was also right and his presence was at the same time a military necessity. It was for the president to decide which should take precedence. But he did not. Instead, he left the decision to Polk."

Historians tell us that one of the reasons Bragg couldn't get along well with others was that he had several major illnesses. Davis seems to have had just as many. During the period Polk was ruining the relationship with Kentucky, Davis "had been too sick even to write a letter. In essence the Confederacy had been virtually without a commander during much of the summer of 1861." What were Davis's illnesses? While stationed in Northern Wisconsin "During one winter of unusually heavy snow and ice, he suffered such a severe case of pneumonia that he nearly died. Even after his recovery, he remained throughout his life highly susceptible to colds, which would in turn develop into bronchitis and trigger attacks of acute neuralgia that incapacitated him for days or weeks at a time. Chronic ill health was a factor in the sometimes rather irritable disposition that complicated most of Davis's dealings with other people, including his Civil War Generals."

In an earlier note we saw that Longstreet broke through the Federal right wing and routed it. But when Longstreet rushed back to Bragg and urged that he give him some troops to pursue the fleeing Federals, Bragg refused. We sought excuses for Bragg. Perhaps all his troops were tired and incapable of such a pursuit. Some historians seem to have thought so. But notice that all Bragg wanted to talk about while Longstreet was begging for troops was Polk and his betrayal. Cozzens completed his book on Chickamauga with this hollow Confederate victory. Longstreet broke through the Federal right wing and the whole Northern army fled. This was a Confederate victory surely. The Northern Command thought it was and punished Rosecrans accordingly, but Bragg whose army suffered far more than Rosecrans' was not punished. Bragg suffered no more for his blunders than Polk did after invading Kentucky.

Somewhat amusingly Cozzens introduces Bragg in chapter three of his book on Chattanooga with the words, "Braxton Bragg was on the attack. Unfortunately for the Southern cause, the object of his offensive was not the badly weakened Army of the Cumberland but rather his own generals. "President Jefferson Davis . . . came to the defense of his beleaguered friend, whose detractors within the Army of Tennessee had achieved a new level of audacity. . . As bloody September ended and the Army of the Cumberland was allowed to entrench unmolested in Chattanooga, twelve of Bragg's most senior generals, including James Longstreet, D. H. Hill, and Simon Bolivar Buckner, signed and submitted to the president a petition bluntly calling for the general's removal from command."

What did Davis do when confronted by 12 senior generals telling him that Bragg was all screwed up? Well, he couldn't admit that he was wrong about Bragg so these generals, most of them, had to go. Not only was the Army of Tennessee weak with Bragg in command, it was made even weaker by the dispersal of some of its best generals, and of those who remained it seemed that they couldn't do their best for a commander they had so little respect for.

Bragg, his Cavalry and his failure

I especially enjoyed the last two chapters of Powell's Failure in the Saddle. In them he does address the almost universal criticism of Bragg. Yes, Bragg made mistakes, but, these mistakes were exacerbated by poor support from his Cavalry. Powell may be right but he hasn't made his case. He assumes that Bragg's orders were "clear." No one I've read accepts that assumption. Connelly, D. H. Hill, Longstreet, McWhiney & Cozzens among others describe Bragg's thinking as muddled and his orders unclear -- at least during the heat of battle. Cozzens deals more with Bragg's opponent (at Chickamauga) than the others and it is interesting that when I picked up Cozzens to resume reading I was often unclear as to whether I was reading about Rosecrans or Bragg. I had to refer back a few pages to orient myself. They were both muddled in their thinking and both unclear in their orders. Is that a mere coincidence or was Chickamauga so difficult a battlefield that anyone would have been muddled?

While I don't agree with the position Powell takes on Bragg I think that Bragg and Rosecrans may have been criticized for factors beyond their control. They are back behind the lines with poor maps, no timely reports of activities, no clear picture of what the enemy is doing or whether their own units are fulfilling their obligations.

I hope it isn't anachronistic to attempt to put myself back into their situations. While reading Connelly and Cozzens I was chagrined to admit to myself that if I were in Bragg's position (given what I am being told that Bragg knew) I couldn't have done any better and probably wouldn't have done as well. If I told my cavalry that their primary duty was to feed me information (which Powell sometimes asserts), then who would guard my left and right flanks?

Also, my corps commanders were responsible for conducting the actual battle on the field. Like Bragg I would perhaps have told them to turn Rosecrans right wing, but how would I know how well that was going, or if it was going at all?

A failure everyone mentions is Bragg's inability to get along with his lieutenants. Was Bragg better or worse than others in that regard? I don't know. Many of the generals I've read about had their "buttons pushed" by subordinates and others. Dealing with Polk may have seemed more important at the moment than believing Longstreet when he reports Rosecrans' right wing in full retreat. Yes R. E. Lee was better at avoiding having his buttons pushed, but to be second to Robert E. Lee isn't a bad thing. Who else was he worse than? Not Johnston, D. H. Hill, Longstreet, or Hood and maybe no one. When tempted to think Bragg couldn't get along with anyone I am reminded that one of his best friends, if I recall correctly, was Sherman. They became friends at West Point and as far as I know resumed their friendship after the war and remained friends throughout the rest of their lives. That is something one can puzzle over for a while.

Yes, Bragg failed to give Longstreet the support he needed to pursue the retreating Federals, but as Cozzens said, all the Confederate troops were well used. The number of Confederate looses was huge. According to McWhiney & Jamieson, Attack and Die, Table 1, Bragg's army started the battle of Chickamauga with 66,326 men and lost 16,986. The Federals on the other hand started out with 58,222 and lost 11,413. While Bragg wouldn't know those details he would probably have had a very strong feeling that his army had been severely hurt and that rushing ahead in support of Longstreet's desire to give chase might not have been a wise thing to do.

Knowing what I know now I would have believed Longstreet, and even if I did, what troops would I have given him with which to pursue the retreating Rosecrans? And what if Rosecrans picked a good spot, entrenched, and waited for Longstreet? I might lose most of the forces I sent along in his support.

I would use this same sort of thinking to explain Forrest. He didn't trust the orders he got from Bragg. He also had the experience of Bragg not listening to him when much was at stake. So how much was Forrest "failing" when he attempted to do the right thing despite poor orders from Bragg? Powell seems to assume there were no poor orders, but Powell does not support his assertion with evidence.

In Powell's Epilogue he analyzes many of the readily-available books on Bragg and Chickamauga. All but one are critical of Bragg. That one is Judith Lee Hallock's Braxton Bragg and Confederate Defeat: Volume II.

Is this the same battle?

According to Connelly [Autumn of Glory pp 223-225] at about 11:30 on 9-20-1863 "Longstreet ordered Hood and Hindman to advance in a mass offensive. . . Suddenly, in one of the war's most notable scenes of panic, the entire Union right collapsed, and retreated. The impact of Johnson's assault, coupled with Hindman on his left, completely obliterated the Union right wing. The remnants of two corps hastily began a retreat toward Chattanooga on Dry Valley Road. By 2 P.M., the fight was over on the right . . . Sometime in the midafternoon, probably about 2:30, Bragg called Longstreet to his field headquarters . . . Longstreet hastily explained the situation. Two Federal corps were in retreat toward Chattanooga, with heavy losses in artillery and prisoners, Longstreet then urged Bragg to send to the left wing some of Polk's troops which had not been as actively engaged. With these, Longstreet would pursue up the Dry Falley Road . . . and thus cut off the remaining Federals from Chattanooga.

"According to Longstreet and others, Bragg seemed to disbelieve that a victory had been won. In his own eyes, his plan for rolling up Rosecrans' left wing had failed, and he was still angry at Polk. Thus, he refused any reinforcements to Longstreet. . . He instead ordered Longstreet to hold his position at Snodgrass Hill. The meeting was brief and somewhat bitter, with Bragg allegedly lashing out at Polk's men for having no fight left; in fact, when the conversation was finished, Bragg left the field. He told Longstreet that if anything else happened, he should communicate with him at Reed's Bridge.

[Connelley provides the following references for the above conversation between Bragg and Longstreet: "Longstreet to Hill, July {?} 1884, quoted in Hill, 'Chickamauga -- the Great Battle of the West,' 658; Longstreet, Manassas to Appomattox, 451-52; George Ratchford, 'Gen. D. H. Hill at Chickamauga,' Confederate Veteran, XXIV (March 1916), 121. Ratchford's father, Major George Ratchford of Hill's staff, overheard the conversation between Bragg and Longstreet. See also Buck, Cleburn and His Command, 151]

Let us turn to the 'same' events in David Powell's Failure in the Saddle, pp167-174: "Shortly before noon, Longstreet's men broke through the Union line at Brotherton cabin and routed a third of the Union Army . . . from the field. In an effort to stem the Rebel tide, John Wilder's mounted infantry launched a desperate counterattack, which in turn routed a Rebel infantry brigade. . . To counteract the Union horsemen and pursue that part of the Union army fleeing the field, Longstreet sent an aide to find Wheeler and ask for Rebel cavalry support.

"Wheeler might have complied with Longstreet's request had he not received an order directly from General Bragg about the same time. Bragg's order instructed his senior cavalryman to ride north a mile or so and attack the Federals found at Lee and Gordon's Mills. Despite two days' fighting and considerable shifting of position by both armies, Bragg was still under the impression that the Union right flank was anchored at the mills: 'There his force must be,' insisted the Rebel commander in his directive."

[Powell then spends several pages describing Wheeler's quandary. He received both requests, decided to obey Bragg and wandered about in confusion looking for the Union Forces who weren't where Bragg said they were.]

Longstreet sent (I don't know how) additional "urgent missives" to Wheeler and because Wheeler didn't obey him Powell, presumably, counts this as another "failure in the saddle." "Wheeler, Powell tells us, "needed to prioritize these missions and decide which were the most critical.

"Instead of making a firm decision and acting decisively, a curious passivity settled over the Rebel cavalry chief. He had begun the morning aggressively enough with a spirited attack against Eli Long's Yankee cavalry, but thereafter his actions are more difficult to explain. Even though his curious tactical decision to countermarch and approach Lee and Gordon's Mills in a roundabout manner was offset by the Union decision to pull back, Wheeler failed to launch a strong attack against a retreating enemy that afternoon and allowed Mitchell's column to withdraw unscathed early that evening. Nor did he send more than token help to Longstreet. . ."

"As the battle ended on September 20 it was clear to most Confederates that they held the advantage, but it was not immediately obvious that the Federal army had quit the field entirely. Most of the Rebels expected the battle to be renewed at first light, especially on Snodgrass Hill. Dawn, however, revealed that the Federals had retreated. The battle was over, the outcome a Southern victory. . ."

"Neither Bragg nor his top commanders were fully aware of the Union movements that night. . . ."

Comment: Powell's emphasis was so different from Connelly's that I had to reread him several times to be sure he was describing the same events. Since Powell's announced aim was to describe "failures in the saddle," that is, incidents demonstrating that Bragg's cavalry officers didn't properly support him, it is somewhat (barely) understandable that he would emphasize Wheeler's activities rather than Longstreet's, but in doing so, he loses track of far-more important events going on at the same time.

Connelly doesn't mention Wheeler's activities perhaps because Bragg sent him off on a wild goose. Instead Connelly describes the overriding problems and concerns and especially Bragg's inability to understand the reality of what had transpired on the battlefield. He sent Wheeler off to where he imagined the enemy was rather than where Longstreet told him it was.

Powell presentation of Bragg's confusion is barely noticeable. One would have had to have read Connelly or someone else to even locate where it appears in Powell's narrative. Bragg, as far as we can tell from Powell, is doing a good job and it is extremely important to Powell's theses to understand Bragg in this way. That is, if his cavalry "failed" him in the saddle, we must understand that Bragg was doing his job well, sending out understandable, clear, and sensible orders that would have gained his army success, or more success than it had, if only his cavalry hadn't "failed" him. But reading Connelly (and others) one sees a very different Bragg, one that failed his army. His failures were so great that they dwarf hypothetical failures of his cavalry, so much so that other historians saw fit not to mention them (assuming they even existed).

On trying to understand Bragg's orders

Historians attempting to fault Bragg's generals for not supporting Bragg well enough in the midst of battle are at a disadvantage. The "midst of battle" seemed to be the very time that Bragg had the least understanding of what he ought to do. What follows is Cozzens (This Terrible Sound, p 169) describing Stewart's attempt to get clear instructions from Bragg:

"Major General Alexander Peter Stewart could read no sign in the orders Major Pollock Lee of the army staff handed him shortly after Cheatham's division ran into trouble. Stewart was to withdraw from the left of the army, march behind hood, and then 'move to the point where the firing had commenced.' That was all. There was no mention of what he should do when he reached the fighting, nor any hint of a coordinated effort.

"Stewart had no intention of acting on orders so ridiculously vague. 'Old Straight,' as he was known in the army, was an intelligent man who liked to know the why behind his orders; at the moment, however, he would settle simply for . . . the what. Leaving his command, Stewart set out for Thedford's ford, a half mile in his rear. . ."

"Stewart's interview with Bragg was a failure. [Stewart's] pointed request for more explicit instructions embarrassed Bragg, and he fumbled for an answer. Walker was engaged on the right; he was badly cut up and the enemy was trying to turn his flank, Bragg told Stewart. Polk was in command of that wing now, he added, and Stewart should report to him for further orders; in the meantime, he must 'be governed by circumstances.' Stewart gave up and rode back to his command in disgust.

"Bragg had been cruelly disingenuous with [Stewart]. Polk had left Bragg's side only minutes before with Captain Wheless to try to find Cheatham's position himself; certainly Bragg must have known that the odds of Polk and Stewart meeting on ground unfamiliar to both were slim."
Connelly on page 205 of Autumn of Glory writes, "Disgusted with the lax state of command, Stewart, on his own initiative, continued his march around Hood's corps, and finally got into action about 2:30 P.M.

"Stewart's ensuing success during the afternoon indicates that the Rebels probably could have won the battle on September 19 had commands been more wisely handled. Intelligence received by Bragg during the morning had indicated that Rosecrans was marching troops across Buckner's and Hood's front to reach the new Union Left . . . Thus, a strong attack by Hood and Buckner might have . . . cut off Rosecrans from Chattanooga. . ."

"Unable to find any instructions for a coordinated effort, Stewart marched to Cheatham's left, wheeled, and drove his three brigades straight across the La Fayette Road and through the Union center. By 4 P.M., the Federal line was severed in half."

One might at this point think that Bragg's telling Stewart, to be "governed by circumstances" was good enough. Stewart used his own judgment and severed the Federal line. However, "Stewart could not hold. Buckner and Hood did not move to his support. . . Unsupported, Stewart's men sullenly gave up their hold on the Federal center, and by 4 P.M. were retreating to the east side of the La Fayette Road. . ."

"It was only on his own initiative that Hood about 4 P.M. [but presumably after Stewart retreated] ordered a belated assault across the La Fayette Road."

Why did not Buckner use the initiative that Stewart and Hood were using? One can read Connelly to say that Buckner had received no current orders and ". . . without orders Buckner had gone into a semi-siege position along the west bank of the Chickamauga."

Connelly (as Cozzens) goes on in excruciating and painful detail about these unled, uninstructed generals doing the best they can and surprisingly doing better than we might expect. It is their good fortune that Rosecrans is as befuddled as Bragg is. Neither commander provided the adequate leadership, but here we are looking mostly at Bragg and we find no evidence that he was failed by his lieutenants or those providing him "intelligence." There is ample sign, on the other hand, that he failed his army.

Bragg’s intelligence problems

The following is quoted from page 86-87 of Peter Cozzens This Terrible Sound, The Battle of Chickamauga. He in turn quotes Polk and Colonel Brent. Brent's Diary has been preserved in the Parson's Collection by the Western Reserve Historical Society:

"Bragg was exhausted. He had slept but little since abandoning Chattanooga, and the strain was beginning to tell. Polk thought he looked weaker than he had at any time since the retreat form Tullahoma. 'Bragg seems sick and feeble. The responsibilities of his trust weigh heavily upon him,' Colonel Brent noted with concern in his diary. Fundamentally, however Bragg gave up because he could no longer trust his generals to obey his orders. The command structure of the Army of Tennessee was near collapse. The sudden accretion of new commanders and units had strained the fragile patchwork. Weighed down by distrust and contempt, it now ripped apart completely. Hill summarized the problem from the point of view of Bragg's subordinates:

'The nightmare upon Bragg . . . was due, doubtless, to his uncertainty about the movements of his enemy, and to the certainty that there was not that mutual confidence between him and some of his subordinates that there ought to be between a chief and his officers to insure victory. Bragg's want of definite and precise information had led him more than once to issue "impossible" orders, and therefore those intrusted with their execution got in the way of disregarding them. Another more serious trouble with him was the disposition to find a scapegoat for every failure and disaster. This made his officers cautious about striking a blow when an opportunity presented itself, unless they were protected by a positive order.'" *

*from Daniel Harvey Hill, 'Chickamauga -- The Great Battle of the West,' in Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, ed. Clarence Buell and Robert Johnson, 4 vols

Comment: My impression from other things I've read is that every general had "uncertainty about the movements of his enemy" at least some of the time. The resources available (if we don't count balloons) were scouts, spies, newspaper article, deserters, civilians and the cavalry. Hill elsewhere faults Bragg for relying too much on his cavalry and not enough on scouts. If that were true and Bragg as we know used his cavalry for guarding his flanks and skirmishing and not for full-time intelligence gathering, perhaps he thought he was getting as much intelligence as was available during the skirmishing. Forrest would skirmish with Wilder for example and then report back as to whether Wilder were on his own or in advance of a larger force. I don't see how Forrest could have done much more than that and there is reference to Bragg using scouts on occasion but perhaps they either weren't available or weren't up to certain sorts of intelligence gathering.

Or perhaps Bragg was especially remiss. Perhaps D. H. Hill believed he would have done better in this situation with scouts for example. But from other things I've read about the Chickamauga campaign just about everyone, both Confederate and Union felt "uncertainty about the movements of his enemy."

That Devil Forrest

What follows is presumably one of Forrest's "failures in the saddle" (from pages 62 & 63 of Failure in the Saddle by David A. Powell):

"Determined to try and figure out what the enemy was up to [this event occurred August 11th] Forrest set out that night on a hazardous personal reconnaissance. He was personally brave to a fault and possessed a flair for the dramatic, but the undertaking demonstrated that he was still thinking and operating like a captain rather than a corps commander. Leading his personal escort company, Forrest reached the picket line of the 5th Tennessee Cavalry. Despite the best efforts of the 5th Tennessee's Lieutenant Allen, who had orders to let no one pass, Forrest brushed the officer aside and he and his men spurred their mounts north into Tunnel Hill, which was currently hosting Wilder's brigade. The reconnaissance triggered a brisk but short skirmish that left the corps leader and two from his escort wounded. One of Forrest's staff officers, Lt. Mattew Cortner, was captured by the 98th Illinois Mounted Infantry. The episode rankled Lieutenant Allen, who confessed, 'I formed an unfavorable opinion of him [Forrest] because he rode rough shod over me while on duty.'

"Fortunately for the Confederate cause, Forrest's wound was minor and did not render him unfit for duty. The only detailed description of the injury -- which was described as 'painful, but not dangerous' -- claims that the bullet struck him near the spine within one inch of a similar wound received at Shiloh. The wound seems not to have slowed down the vigorous cavalryman, as his movements over the next few days demonstrate. The reconnaissance, however, revealed nothing of importance and risked the life of one of Bragg's best officers. The effort was a risk no corps leader should ever have undertaken."

This "failure" considered: My first thought was that Powell is being anachronistic in order to consider this a failure on Forrest's part. I agree with Powell from our modern standpoint, that is, the South used up its officers at a rapid and self-defeating rate. However in 1863 the Confederate leadership and indeed the Confederate officers and troops believed that an officer who wasn't willing to get out there and lead wasn't worth his salt. Officers who stayed behind while their troops fought were viewed with contempt. There may be a climate today of "don't take chances" with your leadership, but no such climate existed in 1863 IMO).

My second thought was to wonder what Forrest was interested in finding out on September 11th. Powell says that since Forrest found out nothing of importance that he shouldn't have gone out.

When I refer to Robert Selph Henry's biography of Forrest, he tells us that Forrest wasn't interested in reconnaissance at all. The following is from pages 178 & 179 of Henry's book describing the events of September 10th and 11th: "So assured was Forrest that his message would bring infantry bent on Crittenden's desctruction, that he went ahead that night [the 10th] with all advance preparations for an attack early the next morning . . ."

"Getting no word of such an attack, at midnight he rode to headquarters . . . The reasons for the failure to deliver the attack became matters of controversy between the General and his lieutenants -- such controversy as seemed to be an inevitable aftermath of General Bragg's major operations -- but whatever the reasons, the attack was not made on the tenth, nor, indeed, was it to be made on the eleventh, despite the General's personal presence on the ground.

"Forrest, not being able to get the infantry force needed for an attack on Crittenden's seperate troops on the eleventh, went back before daylight and with such of his own force as was available undertook to hamper and delay the Union advance down the railroad in the direction of Ringgold and Dalton.

"The indefatigable Wilder, commanding Crittenden's mounted advance, struck Colonel Scott's brigade of Forrest's command at daylight of the eleventh, two miles north of Ringgold. After a sharp skirmish Scott fell back to the little town where, with Forrest himself on the field and in command, the Confederates made a stubborn stand of two hours. A division of Union infantry coming up on the Confederate left, Forrest fell back, fighting, along the railroad, to make another and final stand dismounted and fighting as infantry, at Tunnel Hill, where the welcome reinforcements of Dibrill's brigade came up.

"In the fight at Tunnel Hill, in which the Union advance down the railroad was brought to a halt, Forrest received another wound. It was not serious enough to cause him to leave the field or give up his command, or even to be mentioned in the Confederate official reports. By army grapevine, however, news of the wound did get across to the Union side, where it received official, and slightly exultant, mention. The effect of the wound upon Forrest himself, so far as it is recorded, was faintness from pain and loss of blood . . . ."

Someone, either Powell or Henry has the events of September 10th and 11th, 1863 seriously wrong.

Two more reasons for failure

On page 201 of Lee's Maverick General, Daniel Harvey Hill, Hal Bridges writes, "Distrust of Bragg was rife among the generals of his army.

"There was ample reason for it. Bragg had his share of personal bravery, patriotism, and organizational ability, but these strengths were vitiated by serious weaknesses. He was, as his chief of staff, General William W. Mackall, confided to his wife, a vacillating commander who had trouble deciding when and where to move his troops. Hill thought his wavering attitude stemmed largely from inadequate knowledge of the enemy. Unlike Lee, Bragg seemed to have no well-organized system of independent scouts, but to get his information about Federal movements chiefly from his cavalry, which had difficulty penetrating the enemy's infantry-supported cavalry screen."

The second reason, also from Bridges' book on D. H. Hill, is Bragg's unclear orders. "They were likely to be ambiguous, and were sometimes 'impossible,' as Hill termed those which could not be carried out because they ignored the physical realities of the military situation. Worse yet, when Bragg blundered he was prone to look for a scapegoat to bear the blame.

"The result of all this was a paralysis of initiative in the high command. Bragg's generals obeyed his orders with extreme caution, because if they acted and then found the orders impossible to execute, or for some other reason failed to attain success, they might be pilloried. Their professional instinct for survival kept them thinking as much about protecting their reputation as about striking the enemy."

Bragg’s failed personality

Bragg had several ailments, some of which nagged him all the time and others incapacitated him. One can't blame Bragg for having those ailments but one can blame him for continuing as general in command of an army. Cozzens on page 5 of This Terrible Sound writes, "Bragg never wavered in his attention to duty, even though chronic ill health was gradually but unmistakably breaking him. Years earlier, as a lieutenant chasing Seminoles in the miasmal swamps of Florida, Bragg had had to come to terms with his unusual susceptibility to disease. While nearly everyone in that campaign suffered from the sun, insects, and fevers, Bragg was unusually hard hit, especially for a young man of twenty-one. After eight months in Florida his health gave out completely, and he was sent home to recover. From then on he suffered from one ailment or another, dyspepsia, dysentery, and chronic headaches all plagued him -- often striking in concert, and always most pronounced when he was under stress or despondent, as had been most of the time since taking command of the Army of Tennessee. His biographer [Grady McWhiney] has speculated that Bragg's ailments were partly psychosomatic. Whatever the cause they had taken a dramatic toll. Although just forty-six, Bragg looked years older."

Also, he had feuds going with just about all his lieutenants. When other writers I've read dwell upon the failure of someone to support Bragg they have these lieutenants in mind and not his cavalry. Also, these "other writers" won't say that all of these recalcitrant lieutenants were wrong.

On page 3-4 of This Terrible Sound, Cozzens writes, ". . . Polk had little Christian charity where Braxton Bragg was concerned. In his eyes Bragg was 'a poor, feeble-minded, irresolute man of violent passions . . . uncertain of the soundness of his conclusions and therefore timid in their executions.' Polk sought Bragg's removal not because he coveted his command -- he actually advocated replacing Bragg with Joseph E. Johnston -- but simply because he judged him incompetent, 'weakling, without the qualities requisite for his station.'

". . . William Hardee . . . urged Bragg's removal because he believed the army had lost faith in his generalship. Generals Patrick Cleburne and St. John Liddell quietly supported the anti-Bragg movement for the same reasons. Others, of whom Tennessean Benjamin Franklin Cheatham was the most notable, held personal grudges against Bragg that stemmed from the commanding general's unfortunate penchant for seeking scapegoats * in the wake of defeat.

In Cheatham's case, Bragg had good cause. Bragg censured him for being drunk at Stones River, which he evidently was, and blamed the faulty execution of the Confederate attack on the first day of the battle in part on Cheatham's intoxication. All too often, however, Bragg's accusations were baseless. Certainly this was the case when he held John C. Breckinridge accountable for the failure of the climactic attack on the second day at Stones River, which, though made by Breckinridge's division, had been faulty in its conception by Bragg.

"Breckinridge and fellow Kentuckian William Preston were estranged from Bragg for other, equally personal reasons as well. Both resented Bragg's undisguised contempt for the Kentucky soldiers in his army, whom Bragg's troubled mind somehow held to blame for the collapse of his invasion of their home state. Also, both were related to Joseph E. Johnston. They resented the favoritism Davis showed in retaining his friend Bragg in command while shelving Johnston, with whom the president did not get along, and they directed their anger at Bragg."

* On page 5 Cozzens writes "Without a doubt, the certainty that Bragg would be hunting for scapegoats should the day be lost made his subordinates reluctant to take the initiative. And where oral orders from Lee often sufficed in the Army of Northern Virginia, Bragg's generals insisted on getting everything in writing, no matter how much time might be lost in the process."

Here we see three reasons for failure (Bragg's illness, his feuds with his lieutenants and his propensity for assigning scapegoats for his failures) all of which "may" be more important than any "failure in the saddle." I have run across those three reasons for failure in several books so either the authors of those books overlooked Powell's "failure in the saddle" or they they chose not to take the position that he does about them.

Chickamauga, Bragg & his Cavalry

I obtained David Powell's Failure in the Saddle the other day. Perhaps I could have gotten through it a bit more smoothly if I hadn't encountered this material before in such books as This Terrible Sound, The Battle of Chickamauga by Peter Cozzens and Nathan Bedford Forrest, First with the Most by Robert Selph Henry. 

The first major problem I encountered in Failure in the Saddle is "slanting." Powell emphasizes or leaves out material in such a way as to suggest that Bragg is doing a fairly good job but that his cavalry is letting him down.

Without providing a reference Powell writes on page xviii "Brag also expands the duties of cavalryman Nathan Bedford Forrest. Prior to the summer of 1863 Forrest operated as an independent-minded brigade commander with a talent for raiding and partisan-style activities. Bragg promotes him to command a mounted corps and assigns a host of traditional cavalry duties. Commanding a brigade of partisan raiders had not prepared Forrest for these activities. With no prior military experience to draw upon, and with no chance to hone his skills at lower levels of traditional responsibility, Forrest is expected to seamlessly assume the complex duties of managing a far-flung corps of cavalry almost overnight."

Notice the shift from "a talent for raiding and partisan-style activities" to "commanding a brigade of partisan raiders." Forrest did not command a brigade of partisan raiders, no more than Col Wilder and his "Lightning Brigade" did when he duped Bragg into falling for Rosecrans ruse. Also, virtually everything I'd read about Forrest prior to Powell is that he was a military genius. He knew what to do and did it . . or rather tried to do it despite being frequently thwarted by traditionalists such as Bragg who preferred outmoded ways of doing things. Forrest wasn't alone in his techniques and practices by the way. Wilder and Buford were Cavalry commanders for the North who used similar techniques.

It was Bragg who insisted that Forrest was limited to partisan-raider sorts of practices. Bragg had a low opinion of Forrest. Furthermore he didn't trust the information he got from Forrest. Forrest would pass back information that if Bragg would send him a brigade or two he could achieve a wonderful victory only to be ignored by Bragg. Working with Bragg over time Forrest's opinion of him dropped lower and lower until he could no longer in good conscious work for him. Forrest as almost everyone else writes was doing a good job in the saddle. It was back at command headquarters where the failure resided.

Powell doesn't give us a true picture of Bragg prior to the Battle at Chickamauga (IMO). Here is Powell describing Wilder's ruse (which Powell doesn't describe as a ruse) on Stringer's Ridge on August 21st: "The appearance of Yankees opposite the city alarmed many, but no enemy troops had crossed the Tennessee River above or below Chattanooga. In Bragg's headquarters, one glaring absence was the lack of any reports from Wheeler, whose men were picketing downstream. Colonel Brent on Bragg's staff recorded the mounting uncertainty and sense of growing frustration. . . ."

I doubt that there are many who could infer from this that Bragg isn't with his staff, but he wasn't. Here is Cozzens on the events of August 21: "Otey [who provided information about the approaching Federals] might have gotten a more satisfactory reply had someone in authority been at headquarters. But Bragg was back at the army hospital at Cherokee Springs, near Ringgold, trying to restore his jangled nerves and something of his battered health . . . The rest of the high command was in church, for President Davis had declared this to be a day of prayer and fasting for the crumbling Confederacy. . ."

"To the north, demonstrations proceeded according to schedule. Minty had his brigade galloping about near Blythe's Ferry. The other half of Wilder's brigade was making its presence known to the Confederate picket posts opposite Harrison, While Hazen marched ostentatiously across the Tennessee Valley to join them. That night and for several to come, Wilder had details out working to create the illusion of a gathering army. They banged boards together, hammered on barrels, and sawed countless planks, which they tossed into streams to simulate castoff lumber form an imaginary flotilla under construction. Bugles blew for fictitious commands, and bands serenaded phantom bivouacs. Hazen played out the same charade farther upriver.

"Rosecrans's deception was a huge success. Bragg returned from Cherokee Springs on the night of 21 August convinced that Hazen's feint heralded the start of a major thrust by the Army of the Cumberland against the rear of Simon Buckner's command in East Tennessee."

Where is a "failure in the saddle" in all of this? Powell assumes that Wheeler should not have been duped as Bragg and the rest of the army was but should have discovered were Rosecrans main army was located. I doubt it and so, apparently, does Powell. On page 42 he writes "Even if he had had more details of the enemy crossings, Bragg might not have reacted to them much differently. The small parties of Federals slipping across the Tennessee River between Shellmound and Stevenson since the 22nd and sparring with Rebel outposts had already been dismissed as deception, so the latest reports would probably have been interpreted as more the the same. Bragg's attention remained fixed on his right flank, upstream from Chattanooga toward Knoxville. Brent's casual dismissal of the Bridgeport crossing as a feint confirms that Rosecrans' diversions deceived Bragg completely. D. H. Hill, whose infantry corps defended the upstream portion of the river, concurred with Bragg. In fact, Hill insisted adamantly that the main crossings would come on his front between the mouth of Chickamauga Creek and Harrison, Tennessee."

"On August 29, Bragg belatedly instructed Wheeler to bring his entire corps forward, realizing at last that the Rebel screen was dangerously inadequate. The order, however, reflected how fixated army headquarters was with Hill's front."

This order also shows how Bragg liked to use his cavalry. He didn't tell it to range far and wide and find out where the enemy was. He deduced where the enemy was and sent his cavalry out to confront it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Writings about Longstreet

On pages 182-2 of Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant, James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History William Garrett Piston wrote "Works critical of Longstreet meanwhile appeared in great number, overwhelming the few that cast him in a favorable light. Two of the best-selling authors of the Centennial period were journalists: Bruce Catton and Clifford Dowdey. . . Catton's view of Longstreet conformed to that of the anti-Longstreet faction. . . Dowdey wrote a number of popular histories, all critical of Longstreet in the extreme. . ."

"Longstreet's reputation also suffered from the cumulative effects of many lesser assaults. Biographies of Civil War figures were enormously popular during the 1950s and 1960s. Preoccupied with their own subject, biographers all too often accepted and repeated without question the prevailing derogatory view of Longstreet. As it had since 1872, Gettysburg remained crucial to Longstreet's place in history. Works which accepted and perpetuated the anti-Longstreet faction's version of the battle include Joseph Mitchell's Decisive Battles of the Civil War (1955), G.F.R. Henderson's The Civil War: A Soldier's view (1958), and Shelby Foote's three-volume The Civil War: A narrative (1958-1974). Books which used all or part of the standard accusations against Longstreet ranged in quality from monographs by professional historians, such as Clement Eaton's A History of the Southern Confederacy (1959) to poorly researched works by writers cashing in on the burgeoning popular interest in the war. Examples of the latter include Rebel Boast (1956), by Many Wade Wellman; They met at Gettysburg (1956), by Edward Stackpole; and The Guns of Gettysburg (1958), by Fairfax Downey.

Piston concludes his book rather depressingly with the following: "James Longstreet's negative image is not likely to change. His role in Southern culture has been that of villain, not hero, and cultural roles cannot be overturned by scholarship. The most laudatory biography imaginable could not give Longstreet anything to compare with the hundred years of adoration accorded Lee and Jackson. The artificiality of the stereotypical Confederate hero is not the issue. Longstreet's picture did not hang in schoolrooms for generation after generation. His birthplace did not become a shrine nor his grave a place of pilgrimage, and his birthday was not made a state holiday. As long as Southern history remains something that is lived and felt as much as read, Longstreet will be remembered primarily as Lee's tarnished lieutenant."

Piston wrote his book in 1987 based upon the doctoral dissertation he published in 1982.  I couldn't find out much about him. Here is CSPAN video of Piston talking about another of his books (on the Battle of Wilson Creek) Battle of Wilson's Creek - C-SPAN Video Library

Monday, July 9, 2012

Human migration and holocausts

Someone from Britain referred recently to the "English migration" and holocaust of the American Indian, but over here in the U.S. that condemnation is directed at Americans and not the British.

Our great anti-American American is Noam Chomsky. He was raised in a Leftist-Communist anti-American atmosphere and now terms himself an Anarchist. While Chomsky does rail against what happened to the American Indian, more to the precise nature of your note is our very own Ward Churchill. Here is his blog: Ward Churchill Solidarity Network (WCSN)

Probably most Americans think Ward Churchill a crackpot (rightfully so IMO). It hasn't helped his cause that he personally claims to be an Indian when his enemies have researched his genealogy (as have some Indians) and say that he is not. He on the other hand insists that if his family always believed in their Indian ancestry there is nothing amiss if he does as well. He goes about in Indian dress and rants against what Americans did to "his" ancestors.

Anthropologically there has never been a era in history or prehistory when groups of humans weren't displacing each other. As the term is used here every such displacement would be termed a "Holocaust" involving genocide.

More recently geneticists have described the same phenomenon: Genes, Peoples, and Languages by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza describes migrations by means of genetics. "Modern humans arrived in Europe 42,000-43,000 years ago; they may have had contacts with Neandertals, but no evidence of hybrids were found [since Cavilli-Sforza wrote his book some Neandertal dna has been found in the homo-sapiens genome]. Shortly after 40,000 years ago Neandertals became more and more rare in Europe, and the last specimens found so far are about 30,000 years old."

A more recent treatment is Bryan Sykes The Seven Daughters of Eve. Through genetics he was able to describe Western Europe as comprising seven genetic groupings representing seven "migrations."

Subsequent to World War II the U.N. Charter created a sort of "time out" for all mankind: wherever you are now that is where you must stay. "Aggression" against a neighboring nation is forbidden and will be strictly punished (assuming of course the U.N. votes for such punishment). Migrating must and will stop. Well, perhaps that is a good rule to have since all of the world's land masses have a fairly high degree of population -- as much as the land can support and then some.

This could of course change and we could revert to migrating if something like a new plague depopulated huge regions. We have cured or controlled all the plagues we know about but we do sometimes discover new ones.

The U.N. charter was written with the Jewish holocaust in mind, but since that time many people have made good livings applying this term retroactively. American and Australian aborigines were indeed displaced by European migrants and the process was ugly, but these migrations were very like the sort of migrations humans have always engaged in. [the "cheap shot" here is to say, "well that doesn't make it right." About which see * below] The German holocaust of the Jews was perhaps closer to what the Turks did to the Armenians. What the Germans intended for the Slavic peoples to their East in order to obtain lebensraum is closer to what humans have done throughout their existence. Of course in the German-Slavic case the latter refused to be displaced. It seems safe to suggest that not all migrations were successful.

*As to the moral element in migrations, we in 1945 made it immoral to migrate. It was sort of immoral before. Britain (assuming Britain as the standard for what is moral and what is not which I don’t want to defend here) didn't approve of Germans taking Czechoslovakia but after all Britain wasn't powerful enough to do anything about it until Germany invaded Poland. They called their clans, the products of their previous migrations, together to stop the German one.

Applying the term genocide & holocaust to events prior to the 20th century is something historians are warned against -- at least when they study and write. You don't apply your own standards retroactively to previous periods.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Longstreet, Lee and the Lost Cause Myth

A few days ago someone challenged William Garret Piston's Lee's Tarnished Lieutenant, James Longstreet and His Place in Southern History especially in regard to Stonewall Jackson. He suggested that to get a more accurate view of Longstreet and Jackson in relation to Robert E. Lee I should read Jeffry D. Wert's General James Longstreet, the Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier.

I have Wert's book and as far as I could see Wert (who referenced Piston's earlier book as well as his doctoral dissertation) didn't disagree with anything Piston wrote about Longstreet and Jackson. Jackson was not favored over Longstreet by Lee.

One might have predicted, based on the squabbling that Confederate generals engaged in during the war that their squabbling would continue after the war and that is what happened but in a more complicated fashion than anyone could have foreseen.

Up until Lee's death in 1870, Jackson was the most revered general in the south, but after that Lee's reputation grew and grew until, according to Thomas Connelly (The Marble Man, Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society), Lee achieved sainthood.

The problem with making Lee a saint was that he really screwed up at Gettysburg; so if the blame could be shifted over to Longstreet (and since Longstreet  had gone over to the Republicans and become a Scalawag no one was likely to worry about his reputation) all would be well.

Jubal Early who had guilty secrets lead the deification of Lee campaign. Piston writes, "Early's motives deserve explanation, as he, more than any other man, convinced nineteenth-century Americans and twentieth-century historians that Longstreet's military career deserved censure. Early had been an outspoken critic of secession and had switched his loyalty to the South at the very last moment, a fact which some people remembered and held against him during the war. His military career was marked by controversy and failure. His hesitation on July 1, when Cemetery and Culp's hills were still vulnerable, was one of the major blunders of the Gettysburg campaign. Late in the war, while he led the badly outnumbered Second Corps in the Shenandoah Valley, he was so disastrously defeated that Lee, in response to public outcry, relieved him of command. Further humiliations followed as Early fled the country after the war, fearing Federal retaliation for his having ordered the burning of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, during a raid. Living in Canada in acute poverty, he wrote a vitriolic defense of his last campaign only to have Lee politely but firmly withhold approval of either the book or his expatriation. . . ."

While Wert doesn't provide this explanation of Early's motives he does describe what actually happened at Gettysburg and his description clearly disagrees with Early's. Many (most?) of the attacks against Longstreet were fabricated.

I couldn’t help thinking of the comparison with modern forensic science and DNA. Rapists who thought their crimes could never be discovered were caught and punished after scientists learned how to use DNA. Something similar happened in the case of Early and his cohorts. Modern historians are as ruthless and dogged as forensic scientists. Records and testimonies were discovered and a true (or at least truer) picture of what happened at Gettysburg arose and Longstreet comes off looking better than Lee let alone General Early.

Longstreet to this day is condemned in the South for his pragmatic decision to cooperate with the Reconstructionists and hasten the day when the South would once again be left to its own devices. While Longstreet was probably correct in theory, most Southerners found his ideas offensive. For if God was on their side, the North must be of the Devil; so some other way (other than Longstreet’s pragmatism) had to be found to account for what happened.

I am reminded of what happened in France after the Vichy period. De Gaulle fostered the idea that all of true France was overtly or covertly resistant to the Nazis. This was clearly untrue and historians have subsequently described their collaborative period more objectively and completely, but at the time De Gaulle was probably correct in believing that France needed this myth. French people needed some myth to enable them to feel good about themselves and about what they had done during the Vichy period.

Perhaps Southerners needed their Lost-Cause myth to enable them to be optimistic about what they and their leaders had done during the Civil War. Longstreet became a Republican with the intention of making things easier on Southerners during the Reconstruction period, not understanding that what they really needed wasn't better treatment from Republicans but a myth to enable them to feel better about themselves.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Brother against brother in the Civil War

I have been reading James M. McPherson's For Cause & Comrades, Why Men Fought in the Civil War. Confederate motivation is the most provocative (IMHO) but it is good to have Union motivation together with it on the same page for contrast and comparison.

Here is McPherson on page 14 contrasting brothers: ". . . James and John Welsh grew up as brothers in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. In 1853 James moved to Illinois, where he became a Republican and voted for Lincoln in 1860. When Southern states in response to Lincoln's election formed an independent nation and fired on the American flag, James Welsh wrote to John back in Virginia that 'Jess Davis and his crew of pirates' had committed 'treason and nothing more nor less.' John replied angrily that he was 'very much pained to find . . . that I have a brother who would advocate sending men here to butcher his own friends and relations. . . . I have always opposed secession but I shall vote for it today because I don't intend to submit to black Republican rule.' John also told James that by becoming a Republican he had forsworn 'home, mother, father, and brothers and are willing to sacrifice all for the dear nigger.' Stung by this charge, James responded that he never dreamed a brother of his would 'raise a hand to tear down the glorious Stars and Stripes, a flag that we have been taught from our cradle to look on with pride. . . . I would strike down my own brother if he dare to raise a hand to destroy that flag. We have to rise in our might as a free independent nation and demand that law must and shall be respected or we shall find ourselves wiped from the face of the earth and our name become a byword and the principles of free government will be dashed to the ground forever.' The two brothers never wrote or spoke to each other again. John enlisted in the 27th Virginia and was killed at Gettysburg; James fought in the 78th Illinois, marched through Georgia with Sherman, and survived the war."

While these brothers obviously felt strongly about their beliefs, one can hardly, it seems to me, suggest that they came to them completely on their own, that is, without influence from peers. Freud insisted that we are affected by "subconscious" or "unconscious" influences. As an example, years ago when Existential philosophy was very popular, especially the philosophy of Jean Paul Sartre, one of the people I saw regularly on the job would stop occasionally to chat. On one occasion she voiced what she described as her deep-seated ideas, ideas she had come up with completely on her own. I was a bit surprised to hear the teachings of Sartre. At some point I stopped her and commented that she had said that her ideas were completely her own and without external influence of any kind but I was very familiar with the ideas of Sartre and assured her that her ideas were identical to his. She took offense and said she had never heard of Sartre and reiterated that her ideas were completely her own. Also, that it wasn't impossible for two people to come to the same conclusions without being influenced by each other.

Were I to speak to these brothers much as I did the Sartrean who had never heard of Sartre, I am convinced I would find the same thing. The brother who moved north entered whole-heartedly into that society and was influenced by it; so much so that their presuppositions became his own. The brother who stayed in Virginia doesn't quite know how to voice the idea that had his brother stayed at home, their presuppositions would be identical. He believes his Northern brother should have resisted alien influences and remained true to the influences that prevailed in the Shenandoah Valley.

It is worth noting that in this present age we are much less influenced by the society around us than the Welsh brothers were in 1860. Thanks to Radio, TV & the World Wide Web we can be influenced by ideas hundreds of miles away. Few of us take a Cartesian approach and try to come to conclusions uninfluenced by someone else. It is much easier to pick someone out, someone we respect, and accept his ideas. Many if not most of us do this without realizing it.

On why rebels went to war

The Confederate War by Gary Gallagher comprises a series of lectures he gave in 1995-96 at the University of Texas at Austin. While not specifically saying so he seems to be emphasizing issues that should be explored further perhaps inspiring some in his audience to take those issues up in theses or books of their own.

While he doesn't discount the importance of other concerns, the impetus for reaction against the intrusion of the North was closely tied to the military, especially to Robert E. Lee. Lee surrendered only a portion of the Southern Army at Appomattox, but virtually all southerners recognized that by virtue of his doing so, they had lost the war. He was the symbol of their success and their hope. When he fell all was lost and they fell silent.

One might ask whether it was important for each individual in the south to have a separate "motivation" for fighting or supporting the fight or whether the typical Southern signed on to someone else's motivation. Few are us philosopher's like Descartes who supposedly erased all preconceived ideas from his mind and declared cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am.) No, most us us accept someone else's thinking. Were we alive back then and living in the South we would believed what the "great men" told us especially about our duty and would have rushed to do it (most of us).

It is a truism that soldiers don't fight for lists of values but for each other. A soldier who went home on furlough didn't return to his unit because of love of country or belief in slavery; he returned because he didn't want to let his fellow soldiers down. It is the same in all wars. Units that don't have this esprit de corps don't fight well as we see time and time again when we read that 'green units' were routed and fled wide-eyed from the field.

Gallagher writes "historians today have redefined the study of the Civil War, shifting attention from military action to the diverse experiences of individual groups, the impact of emancipation,' and the ways in which the war exacerbated old social divisions and created new ones. In calling for a shift away from 'narrow, antiquated views' of history represented by undue attention to Civil War battles and generals, Gardner manifested a stunning innocence of the ways in which military events helped shape all the dimensions of the American life he considered important."

Gardner, deputy executive director of the American Historical association, spoke these those words in 1990. There used to be a popular saying which went "wars never solve anything," but that is patently untrue and has been ridiculed to the point that few would come out and say precisely that, and while Gardner doesn't, he seems to come powerfully close, and Gallagher comes equally close to ridiculing him.