Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Direction of McClellan historians

I realized later that I hadn't been clear in my previous note.  By presenting the arguments of Rowland, Harsh and Rafuse we will be presenting the views of academics that are part of the erosion of the "pop history" you refer to. And by being "quiet" I didn't really mean silent. I meant that they wouldn't be presenting a Sears view as blatantly as those who've been popping in recently without having read all the previous dialogue.

I have the latest book on Hood on order. Hood is another one I don't believe has been given a fair shake. When we look at the numbers and the fact that Hoods forces were being subject to severe attrition we wonder why he (and I wonder) and Lee kept on with that style of warfare, but that is what Davis wanted. He hated Johnston and his style. I often think that if Johnston and Longstreet had been conducting the Confederate ware their army would have been much more numerous in 1865. But apparently the South needed Lee/Jackson/Hood type victories to feel that they were winning, and Johnston wasn't going to give them those. What Johnston could have done was hung on much longer than Lee did and perhaps sapped the North's willingness to continue fighting -- sort of what the North Vietnamese did against us in that war.

I'm thinking it wasn't McClellan's style either, and the North needed (as opposed to "wanted") victories more than the South did. Lincoln was pushing for them before the Army was capable of providing them.

And then I'm wondering about the "conciliation." Lincoln obviously thought that might work when he ordered up 75,000 men for 3 months, but at some point, probably after First Manassas, he realized that wasn't going to work.

But could it have? It seems as though McClellan held onto the conciliation hope much longer than Lincoln did. And apparently there were those who thought he still held that hope when he was running for president -- until he clarified his position.

As to someone thinking McClellan was the best general the North had, Lee may have thought that. We have a quote from someone, maybe not a rock-solid quote, saying that Lee said that. Rowland certainly doesn't say that. After defending McClellan from Sears accusations he ends up saying that perhaps McClellan was only mediocre, but he doesn't deserve Sears' criticisms.

I keep saying "Sears" but Rowland mentions others who are equally critical of McClellan. I haven't read the Williams but I did read Glatthaar. Rowland does an especially good job, it seems to me, in criticizing the psychological theories for McClellan's fighting more like Johnston than Lee (my paraphrase).

In looking at Rafuse's "Acknowledgments" I found a few names I recognized. I didn't know Rafuse studied under Joseph Harsh, but that doesn't surprise me. Hattaway is prominently mentioned, but further down I see the name of William G. Piston whom I read on another general who has been severely criticized, Longstreet. We have had a few here who believed in the "Lost Cause" ideas without wanting to call them that. "Can't I" one of the said "think the same thing about Longstreet that the Lost Causers thought without being influenced by their thinking" (my paraphrase). "No," I argued.

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