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Monday, December 10, 2012

Sickels: George McClellan, Dayton Moore, and the Kansas City Royals


Dayton Moore is trying to avoid being McClellan. He’s got the farm system built up, the army trained and organized. He’s good at that. Now he’s taking the field of battle and deploying those forces. That’s admirable.

Of course, what’s the next part of the story? Is Moore going to turn into an aggressive, brilliant field commander like Ulysses S. Grant or William Tecumseh Sherman? Will he be cautious but effective like George Gordon Meade? Mercurial and erratic like Joe Hooker? Or will he be the well-meaning but dangerously inept Ambrose Burnside? The suicidally aggressive John Bell Hood?

Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: December 10, 2012 at 08:25 PM | 621 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: civil war, history, rays, royals

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   1. Esoteric Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:17 PM (#4321411)
I prefer my GM to be like the stolidly deliberate, unassuming, but determined, unflappable, relentlessly effective, and egregiously underappreciated George Thomas. Which current or past GM best fits that mold?

(More importantly, let's talk about Civil War generals! Currently re-reading the magisterial Foote trilogy, and I can't say enough good things about it.)
   2. robinred Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:24 PM (#4321415)
Foote is outstanding. I also enjoy Bruce Catton's work.
   3. Tripon Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:27 PM (#4321417)
I forgot that George McClellan ran as a Democrat during the civil war against Lincoln after previously being his commander in chief in the war. And ran on a anti-civil war platform that basically called to end the war and let the Confederacy secede. No way that happens today.
   4. Esoteric Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:36 PM (#4321424)
Foote is outstanding. I also enjoy Bruce Catton's work.
Foote work is almost like Gibbon's for me, in that because of its combination of length and majestic prose, I always feel like re-reading it once I've gotten all the way through. Gibbon is truly in a class of his own, to be fair (I've gone through The Decline And Fall four times, and am a third of the way through #5, it feels new each time), but Foote is the closest American analogue for me. His accounts of Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Vicksburg, and Gettysburg are just unimpeachable. And I love how his novelistic, narrative approach allows him to paint the characters as they were at the time and in the moment, as opposed to a distortingly global retrospective view. (For example: Rosecrans is an incomparably brave, unflappable hero at Murfreesboro, but he's utterly lost and confused at Chickamauga. That's true not only to history, but to the complexity of human character.)
   5. spike Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:54 PM (#4321443)
eh, Foote's a homer.

And count me as one that isn't overfond of the sports/war metaphors. Not pearl clutchingly so, mind you, but they are not really instructive or in particularly good taste.
   6. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 10, 2012 at 10:55 PM (#4321445)
I forgot that George McClellan ran as a Democrat during the civil war against Lincoln after previously being his commander in chief in the war. And ran on a anti-civil war platform that basically called to end the war and let the Confederacy secede. No way that happens today.


By 1864 the time for that had passed. Two years earlier he might have had a real shot at it, but the Emancipation Proclamation (which achieved its primary purpose, keeping Europe from recognizing the Confederacy) and the victories in the West slammed that door shut.

-- MWE
   7. DL from MN Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:12 PM (#4321458)
stolidly deliberate, unassuming, but determined, unflappable, relentlessly effective, and egregiously underappreciated


Sounds like Terry Ryan or Pat Gillick.
   8. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:24 PM (#4321469)
More importantly, let's talk about Civil War generals!


Which GM is most like Abner Doubleday? Is it Billy Beane the mythical inventor of Moneyball? Would that make Sandy Alderson Doc Adams?
   9. SteveM. Posted: December 10, 2012 at 11:37 PM (#4321482)
I forgot that George McClellan ran as a Democrat during the civil war against Lincoln after previously being his commander in chief in the war. And ran on a anti-civil war platform that basically called to end the war and let the Confederacy secede. No way that happens today.


He actually ran as a candidate who repudiated the party platform. He also conducted what may have been the most racist presidential campaign in history. Which is saying something given that Strom Thurmond ran in 1948 and George Wallace in 1968.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:00 AM (#4321496)
Dayton Moore as Custer? (I know, I know)

Or Dayton Moore as Gomer Pyle?
   11. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:07 AM (#4321500)
Billy Beane should never have fired on Fort Sumter
   12. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:14 AM (#4321504)
eh, Foote's a homer.
I always hear this complaint about Foote, and as a born-and-bred Northeasterner I'm acutely attuned to such things, but I honestly just don't see it in the Civil War trilogy. If anything, I appreciate the fact that he treats the Confederate armies and generals as something other than Designated Bad Guys. I'm more of the view of Ulysses S. Grant himself, which is to say that even though the Confederate cause was "one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse ... I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us." Or, as Foote wrote -- in one of those great bits of historical color that characterize his work -- for most Rebel soldiers the answer to the Unionist question of "why are you fighting us?" was "because you're down here."

For the vast majority of the Confederate soldiers, that was their reason, however wrongheaded and myopic we now understand it to be in retrospect. Therefore, I really appreciate an approach such as Foote's, which finds the humanity in BOTH sides (I never, not once, detect him denigrating the Union's soldiers or their cause, and I've combed over his material obsessively), which is important given that it's our CIVIL WAR we're talking about here. It operates as something of a corrective on my natural Blues Brothers-like "Southerners...I hate those guys" instincts.

That said, I do sometimes have to skip or skim the chapters on the Peninsular Campaign and Chancellorsville, because it just chaps my ass to see those Johnny Reb f**ks winning over and over again. I far prefer reading about Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Chattanooga. The last is direly underappreciated and Foote's account is, again, magnificent. Missionary Ridge FTW.
   13. charityslave is thinking about baseball Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:32 AM (#4321510)
I like Foote, read the trilogy and really enjoyed his input to the Burns Civil War doc. But his close friend Walker Percy is the shiznit. Lost in the Cosmos and The Message in the Bottle are amazing.
   14. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 11, 2012 at 01:14 AM (#4321525)
Foote not only is a homer, but did you ever notice that there aren't any footnotes in his trilogy? Or wonder why?

A much better read is James McPherson's BATTLE CRY OF FREDOM. No, it's not novel-like. It's just tremendously accurate instead.
   15. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 11, 2012 at 01:15 AM (#4321526)
And I do think that Moore = McClellan
   16. Tim D Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:19 AM (#4321552)
McPherson's book is excellent but is in essence an abridged history of the Civil War. It's just too short. There aren't too many footnotes in Catton either, and it doesn't keep him from being brilliant. Foote is telling a story and it's a damn good story. Supposedly Foote is the southern counterpoint to Catton's northern perspective, but I have never seen much bias in either. Foote certainly does not go in for the marble man stuff on Lee, he is critical of luminaries even like Stonewall when appropriate. I like Stephen Sears' work tremendously, also Harry Pfanz's books on Gettysburg are wonderful. Saw "Lincoln" today; very impressive. Godwin's book is terrific and Speilberg was very smart to tackle one small part of it.

Dayton Moore doesn't fit as McClellan. McClellan was a dandy and a pu$$y when it came to a fight; Moore is neither. I'd say Braxton Bragg would be a better fit. Irascible, a fighter, an occasional gambler, a blunderer. As for my GM give me Grant, who "wore the expression of a man about to put his head through a brick wall." (Catton)
   17. Best Regards, President of Comfort Posted: December 11, 2012 at 08:11 AM (#4321600)
McClellan had two great flaws:

1) He was inclined to reach a conclusion based on very little evidence, and was always inclined to believe that the worst possible scenario was the truth
2) One he reached a conclusion, that became, to him, and unassailable fact, and anyone who questioned his conclusion was personally attacking him, and was his enemy.

McClellan was convinced that he was heavily outnumbered. He was not alone in his belief, many -- perhaps most -- Northern officers thought that the Confederates had more men than them, because they felt that conscription had been more successful in the South than it actually was. McClellan's estimates were more wildly inaccurate than most others, though. If you view his actions from this standpoint, he always made the correct move. His sole advantage was, in his view, in artillery. The way to win was to avoid being overwhelmed by the enemy's infantry, and blast them apart with your heavy guns.

He made decisions from the standpoint that he could only win if he did not make any mistakes. Lee made decisions from the standpoint that he could only win if his opponent made mistakes, and so he "assumed the agressive" -- limiting the choices his opponents had, and limiting the time they had to make them, increasing the probability that they would make a mistake.

After outflanking McClellan out of his Beaver Dam Creek position and breaking his line at Gaines' Mill, McClellan was actually in a pretty good position on the fourth day of the Seven Days, considering that he had already decided to change base to the James (though this meant giving up the siege). Lee's army was divided, the direct route to Richmond was weakly defended, and most of McClellan's army had been barely engaged, so they were in good fighting shape. It was not dissimilar to a year later in Pennsylvania, when the Confederates won a major victory on July 1st, but at the end of the day the the Federals were in a strong position south of Gettysburg.

But unlike Meade, who stayed and fought on July 2nd, McClellan decided that his army was on the verge of being destroyed and he had to get under the cover of his gunboats as soon as possible to save it. "If I save this Army now I tell you plainly that I owe no thanks to you or any other persons in Washington — you have done your best to sacrifice this Army," he wrote to Washington (though Stanton and Lincoln never saw that message, as the clerk at the War Department edited it out). In fact, by withdrawing from the Chickahominy, McClellan in fact exposed his army to destruction, and had Lee's attacks the next few days been better coordinated (there are dozens of reasons they weren't, not the least of which is that it's very, very hard to do that in a perfect circumstance, which the Seven Days was not), the Army of the Potomac would have been destroyed on the Virginia Peninsula.

Pope was bluster and aggression, but not a good general. Burnside was unsuited to army command. Hooker was aggressive and smart, but when he lost the initiative he became indecisive. Meade was slow to take the offensive but masterful at responding to his opponent's moves -- on July 2nd, 1863, Dan Sickles handed him a #### sandwich to eat, and he ####### ate it like a boss. Meade should be on the same pedestal as Grant for July 2nd alone, but he's largely forgotten by non-Civil War buffs.

Grant was hardly perfect, but he had two great qualities: when he made a mistake, he always learned a lesson from it and applied it, and when his plan didn't work out like he wanted it to, he just moved on to the next plan and did whatever was necessary to win the war, because that was the only thing that mattered.

Tried to get through the Wilderness without a fight, couldn't. So he fought the battle in the Wilderness, and lost. So he moved around to his left, tried to get around Lee at Spotsylvania, couldn't. So he fought at Spotsylvania, and couldn't make any headway. So he tried something else. It cost him men. It gave him a reputation as a butcher and an imbecile. But it limited Lee's options, forced him to decide quickly without making mistakes, and it won the war. Which was the only thing that mattered.
   18. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 11, 2012 at 09:26 AM (#4321623)
Dayton Moore = McClellan if he runs for commissioner vs. Selig on a no government financed stadium platform.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 09:50 AM (#4321637)
I'm a HUGE military history buff, but I just can't get into the Civil War. It's like WWI (before 1918), unrelenting slaughter with barely a hint of interesting strategy or tactics.
   20. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:00 AM (#4321644)
Recent reevaluation has shown that McClellan was outnumbed at the Seven Days, by about 110,000 to 100,000, albeit not by the 2:1 ratio McClellan believed.
   21. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:05 AM (#4321648)
snapper, first of all I love the 19th century. Think of life in 1800 and life in 1900. Buckskins to business attire. In 1815, the Battle of New Orleans was fought 6 weeks after the peace treaty was signed. By the Civil War, people read about faraway battles the next day. Travelling across the country took 3-4 months in the first half of the century, but 1869 it would take 5 days or so. Electricity in the home, telephones, you name it, life changed dramatically.
For the Civil War itself, you have the following points of interest:
1. The personalities. While Lee is boring mostly, figures like Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Chamberlain, Stonewall Jackson, Jeff Davis, JEB Stuart, heck this is the first appearance of Custer. The friendships that crossed lines such as Grant and Longstreet, Hancock and Armistead.
2. The geography. Richmond and Washington were so close. The Shenandoah to move armies back and forth.
3. The new technology that was applied, especially with ships, both sea-going and riverine. The use of the railroads. The change in weaponry.
4. The politics -- North and South and international.
5. The (mostly) Union bunglers, as Larry M. highlights.
6. I'm sure I'm missing something else. :)

But if your real love is battlefield tactics, then yeah, then I can see where you would find this one not so interesting.
   22. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:15 AM (#4321654)
I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us." Or, as Foote wrote -- in one of those great bits of historical color that characterize his work -- for most Rebel soldiers the answer to the Unionist question of "why are you fighting us?" was "because you're down here."
This is actually one of the passages that gets cited most in criticisms of Foote for his continuing commitment to "Lost Cause" mythology. The "sincerity" of the South was indeed real, but it was also sincerely white supremacist. Not to a man (there were significant movements, especially in the upper South, of unionism), but the ideology that drove secession for both elite and ordinary soldiers was about the necessity of keeping blacks in bondage. You can see this most clearly in the racial violence of the counter-revolution following the war.
   23. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:30 AM (#4321664)
An interview with Shelby Foote:
INTERVIEWER
Had you been alive during the Civil War, would you have fought for the Confederates?

FOOTE
No doubt about it. What's more, I would fight for the Confederacy today if the circumstances were similar.
He continues by claiming that "emancipation" was nearly as great a stain on the nation's history as slavery, whitewashing Fort Pillow, romanticizing the early, relatively non-violent(!) Ku Klux Klan. Foote was a great writer, and his books are better than his apparent underlying beliefs, but this is not the perspective of a man who gets the moral question addressed in the war, or a man who can empathize with white and black southerners equally.**

**Think of all the great, indelible characters you remember from Foote. How many of them were black? The Civil War as a war which blacks helped to instigate, for which black Americans were major and central advocates,*** in which black Americans fought and died at incredible rates, is a war that mostly does not show up in Foote's work.

***Which is probably my primary problem with Lincoln. The pressure put on Lincoln by black Americans (in particular in the massive camps of escaped slaves in Washington DC itself) is mostly hidden from view after the first - brilliant - scene. Obviously there weren't any black folks in the Congress itself, but that is not the only kind of politics that exists, and blacks as political actors get lost after the first scene.
   24. Flynn Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:33 AM (#4321665)
Was Foote a lost cause guy? I haven't read his work, but I didn't find him to be that sort at all in the Ken Burns documentary. I thought he was enormously fair.

Edit: wow, looks like I'm gonna need to read this interview.
   25. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:03 AM (#4321693)
He continues by claiming that "emancipation" was nearly as great a stain on the nation's history as slavery
That is a THOROUGHLY DISHONEST characterization of what Foote says in that interview. I was appalled at the thought that Foote would have expressed such a sentiment, clicked through to check, and found that the meaning he was expressing was literally the exact opposite of what you implied (Foote's point: it was grossly unfair to African-Americans to simply emancipate them and then abandon them to their own devices, and the cruel victimization of Southern whites, after centuries of slavery.)

Holy crap, MCoA, that's damn near slanderous of you.

EDIT: Foote's quote from MCoA's linked interview:
There’s a second sin that’s almost as great and that’s emancipation. They told four million five hundred thousand people, You are free, hit the road. And we’re still suffering from that. Three quarters of them couldn’t read or write, not one tenth of them had a profession except for farming, and yet they were turned loose and told, Go your way. In 1877 the last Union troops were withdrawn after a dozen years of being in the South to assure compliance with the law. Once they were withdrawn all the Jim Crow laws and everything else came down on the blacks. Their schools were inferior in every sense. They had the Freedmen’s Bureau, which did, perhaps, some good work, but it was mostly a joke, corrupt in all kinds of ways. So they had no help. Just turned loose on the world, and they were waifs. It’s a very sad thing. There should have been a huge program for schools. There should have been all kinds of employment provided for them. Not modern welfare, you can’t expect that in the middle of the nineteenth century, but there should have been some earnest effort to prepare these people for citizenship. They were not prepared, and operated under horrible disadvantages once the army was withdrawn, and some of the consequences are very much with us today.
Does that sound like a racist Southern revanchist to you? Or does it sound more like MCoA is being, oh, maybe just a tad disingenuous?
   26. spike Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:10 AM (#4321699)
A much better read is James McPherson's BATTLE CRY OF FREDOM.

My favorite book about the war, and one of my favorite books period. And my family adn upbringing are about as Deep South as you can get.
   27. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:10 AM (#4321701)
Does that sound like a racist Southern revanchist to you?
Yes, it does.

The economic position of black Americans in the 1880s had almost nothing to do will their supposed ill-preparedness for freedom. Freed blacks were not "waifs", they were not "unprepared" for a freedom they had been fighting for over decades, and the suggestion that they were sounds more than a touch racist. They were free men and women whose rights and property were stripped of them by a massive counter-revolutionary, fully and abominably racist movement in the South following the war.

The idea that "emancipation" was to blame for any of the problems of blacks in America in the later 19th century is purely offensive. The whitewashing of legal and extra-legal terrorism in the fight against Reconstruction is awful history and more awful morality.

The "Lost Cause" shows up nowhere as clearly as in the ignorance of the actual history of reconstruction and counter-revolution.

EDIT: How exactly do you square this reading of Foote as alluding to the justice of reconstruction (which I do not think he is doing) with his quite explicit sympathy for the counter-revolution against reconstruction in the person of Forrest and the KKK? How do you square this reading of Foote with his clearly expressed belief that the cause of the Confederacy was a cause he would still fight for today?
   28. zack Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM (#4321713)
I'm with MCA on that one. Maybe not what Foote says in a single interview answer, but there are decades of thought along the same lines that are inherently racist, essentially saying that they're better off being slaves because they can't take care of themselves. Read that quote again, it's written like the problems after emancipation were inherent, when they're caused by white southerners. The solution to that is to let the South form it's own country?
   29. Bitter Mouse Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:34 AM (#4321718)
Sorry MCOA but it really seems like you are reaching. Foote seems pretty clearly that the failure was not doing enough other than freeing the slaves and walking away and this is pretty clearly true, enough was not done. He believes more education and Northern enforcement needed to be done and I don't think that is racist. He is not saying that are incapable of being citizens, just that the circumstances at the time made it very hard for them - put simply being a slave is not the best preparation for being a productive and empowered citizen, especially when the entire power structure of the South is arrayed against them.

He may have more than a little pro-Confederate bias, but his comments about emacipation and the aftermath of abandonment don't really support your specific case. You don't have to square one belief with another. People are complex entities, able to belief many things and able to have blindspots in some areas and not others, able to be enlightened in some ways and horribly backward in others. Suggesting his pro-Confederacy bias taints everythign about him is simplistic.

It is (IMO) a mark against him, but so what? No one is pure.

NOTE: I am not saying I agree with Foote or his understanding of what needed to be done post-emancipation, however claiming it is racist to believe a slave may not be completely ready for full citizenship is not racist even if it is wrong.
   30. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:45 AM (#4321726)
I'm with MCA on that one. Maybe not what Foote says in a single interview answer, but there are decades of thought along the same lines that are inherently racist, essentially saying that they're better off being slaves because they can't take care of themselves. Read that quote again, it's written like the problems after emancipation were inherent, when they're caused by white southerners. The solution to that is to let the South form it's own country?
That's not what he's saying. He's saying that the North ended Reconstruction and abandoned the freed slaves without helping them. He's saying they needed to invest money in education, jobs programs, etc., instead of pulling out and letting white Southerners impose Jim Crow. Um...I literally don't see what is objectionable about that sentiment. It seems, instead as if you and MCoA are reading extra elements into it in order to slant it as being 'racist' or whatnot.
   31. Morty Causa Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:46 AM (#4321728)
I like Foote, read the trilogy and really enjoyed his input to the Burns Civil War doc. But his close friend Walker Percy is the shiznit. Lost in the Cosmos and The Message in the Bottle are amazing.


The Moviegoer as a novel of ideas that dramatically incorporates a philosophical stance, a rare thing done successfully at the highest level, is of the highest order. John Fowles's The Magus is another along those lines. Thinking in those two novels is made flesh. They make Sartre and Camus's attempts at it look pallid in comparison.
   32. Morty Causa Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:47 AM (#4321731)
17:

Excellent summation.
   33. GregD Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:53 AM (#4321735)
They had the Freedmen’s Bureau, which did, perhaps, some good work, but it was mostly a joke, corrupt in all kinds of ways. So they had no help. Just turned loose on the world, and they were waifs. It’s a very sad thing. There should have been a huge program for schools. There should have been all kinds of employment provided for them. Not modern welfare, you can’t expect that in the middle of the nineteenth century, but there should have been some earnest effort to prepare these people for citizenship. They were not prepared, and operated under horrible disadvantages once the army was withdrawn, and some of the consequences are very much with us today.


I don't think Foote is exactly a Lost Cause guy for lots of reasons but I also don't think that puts him on the same position as McPherson, who is a giant.

Let's break down this paragraph:
1) the begrudging "perhaps" that the Freedmen's Bureau did some good work. This is just an absurd statement. The bureau distributed hundreds of tons of food to starving people (including ex-Confederates), established hospitals, helped establish or support thousands of schools, adjudicated thousands of cases involving freedpeople who were barred by law from testifying in state courts, regulated labor contracts, etc etc.

2) "it was mostly a joke, corrupt in all kinds of ways"--This is a stupid statement unworthy of a serious person in Foote's era. Again the above. Second the corruption in the Bureau was a key feature of the anti-Reconstruction portrayal that celebrated the paramilitary takeover of the South between the 1870s and 1890s but it's based on flimsy evidence. There are a few cases of corruption out there in an agency that covered 750,000 square miles, but the Bureau was nowhere near as corrupt as the Treasury department or Indian Affairs. To call it mostly a joke is just stupidity.

3) "There should have been a huge program for schools." In fact Republicans tried several times to pass through federal education bills and the Southern Democrats blocked them.

4) "Just turned loose on the world, and they were waifs....there should have been some earnest effort to prepare these people for citizenship. They were not prepared, and operated under horrible disadvantages once the army was withdrawn, and some of the consequences are very much with us today."


Here there's more room for ambiguity but not all that much. It's not clear--and Foote was never clear in talking about Reconstruction as he was in talking about the war--what Foote is saying. It seems to be that we should take for granted that white Southerners were barbarous murders, so it is the fault of the nation for not restraining them? There's something to that, but there's also some limits to it, since it's not clear in his writing that he really follows the implications of thinking that white Southerners were barbarous murders. If they aren't wild men--if they have the kind of capacity for judgment that he portrays in the war era--then they of course deserve a good bit of the responsibility for what they did, yet that disappears.

Beyond that is the portrayal of emancipation. Black people did in fact prepare themselves for citizenship. They met during and after the war to talk about politics and the responsibility of citizenship. Some northerners--white and black--toured around, but in lots of places people constituted themselves as soon as they could...and in return white Southerners slaughtered them for doing so. It wasn't that they weren't prepared for citizenship; it's that they were actively and at first violently and then legalistically prevented from exercising it. Some of this stuff came out after Foote was active but much of it was coming out in the heart of Foote's writing period and was known to people much less plugged in and intelligent than he is.

Blacks weren't a sad lost people shuffling around at the end of the war; in fact many people were amazed at how quickly plantations got going, and 1865--shockingly--was not such a terrible harvest year. They didn't need an employment program or classes in citizenship. They needed--and got--schools, and the right to exercise their rights in terms of labor bargaining which meant--since labor relations were established by lien laws--the right to engage in politics.

There's lots of room to be critical of the nation, but in fact Reconstruction--which Foote portrays simultaneously as some shocking tyranny that whites had to revolt against and a weakly ineffectual surrender--did those things by and large.

What the nation could not figure out how to do was how to defend those written rights against the various ways that white Southerners worked to empty them out. It's fair to be critical of the nation on that ground, but that's not what Foote is saying. And his pleading that he pities black people misses the entire point of what was going on in emancipation and what came after.

In terms of Ken Burns, when Burns presented his video to PBS they were appalled and ready to cancel since they thought it was so shockingly pro-Confederate based in part upon the extensive screen time given to Foote. And then they made him--with an editor imposed upon him--splice in later interviews with Barbara Fields and the early section on the South fighting not for home but for slavery.

That said, Foote is not a celebrant of all things Southern, and sees lots of flaws and stupidity in the South, and he like Catton is part of a generation following on Bell Wiley and getting interested in the social history of regular people int he war.

But there were always variants in pro-Southern thought; there's no one playlist. The Lost Cause itself posited defeat as a tragic necessity to make the nation, even though it romanticized Confederates in a way that Foote doesn't. The Dunning School of Reconstruction considered secession flatly stupid and traitorous but also portrayed Reconstruction as an outrage, and this is the line that Foote picks up on. Foote also picks up on another part of early 20th century pro-Southern thinking on the war, that made the war a failure of political compromise, something he says over and over, and in the process downplayed the idea that the war was about--on both sides--principles that could not be readily compromised.
   34. GregD Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4321751)
As I think back on it, I think the people who were appalled by Burns' Foote usage were not at PBS but at the NEH, which essentially pays for the vast majority of his work, and who then demanded and oversaw the changes that produced the version we now all watch.
   35. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4321760)
GregD's #33 is a much more measured and thoughtful critique than MCoA's earlier one. I'll buy into large parts of that.

Incidentally, I too saw Lincoln and was thoroughly impressed. Not just by Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln, but also by David Strathairn's performance as William Seward, which was every bit as marvelous and true to life. As a student of the era, I could nitpick about several inaccuracies, but the overall spirit of the film -- and the sheer moxie of making a major big-budget epic about what is essentially talky, arcane political negotiations -- is so true that I feel small-minded criticizing it. Honestly, I think it's the best thing Spielberg has done in decades.

Actually, Lincoln is the reason I'm re-reading Foote's Civil War trilogy. We walked out of the theater, and I went straight home to my books and cracked them open. McPherson and Catton are on the shelf right now too -- I'm turning to them when I'm done.
   36. Ron J2 Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4321761)
Foote is outstanding. I also enjoy Bruce Catton's work.


Still haven't found anybody whose work I like more than Catton's -- and while I've cut back in recent years I used to read an awful lot on the ACW.
   37. Ron J2 Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:47 PM (#4321777)
Grant was hardly perfect, but he had two great qualities


The two you list are important, but I think you miss a very important third quality. is plans were based in reality. He didn't make a grand plan and then demand the resources to carry it out.

He also adapted well to the necessities. He didn't quibble when it was demanded that he send some veteran troops to deal with Early. In fact he detached his best available commander and gave him the resources to not merely contain Early but crush him.

He also had generally good judgement of his subordinates and basically left them to their own devices. (But see Dana on the Thomas situation. He was seriously considering relieving Thomas -- not really understanding the local conditions)
   38. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:49 PM (#4321779)
Incidentally, I have a few issues with Battle Cry Of Freedom:

1.) Even at 800 pages, it's too damn brief. My favorite section is actually the ~240pgs worth of pre-war scene-setting, critical political and socio-economic context that is absent from Foote and deeply informs the reader about the underlying cross-currents in America prior to the war. But his account of the actual fighting and course of the war is too compressed, and there's nothing on Reconstruction at all.

2.) For a guy whose scholarly bread and butter is the Abolitionist movement, it's bizarre to my mind how McPherson fails to adequately discuss or credit the pivotal role of American Christian sects and Protestant religious values (particularly Quakerism and New England Episcopal and Puritan strains) in driving the Abolitionist cause. He nods towards this, of course, but fails to provide it with the proper weight.

3.) His writing style just doesn't do it for me. Foote makes me want to keep reading, even in places where I'm actively thinking "gee, this is depressing, who wants to read about Bedford Forrest doing something awesome?...I hate that guy." I read regardless, carried along by the effortless flow and charm of his prose. McPherson, meanwhile, isn't exactly "dry" but nor does his language lift off the page either. He's an academic, with all the good and bad that entails.

That said, these are quibbles. It's a magnificent work, and I don't see it as being any more "biased" towards the North (which is a claim people often make) than Foote is towards the South.
   39. Ron J2 Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:54 PM (#4321783)
but the overall spirit of the film


My absolute favorite moment in the film is the fit Stanton throws when Lincoln starts to tell anonther story while they're waiting for the news from Wilmington. And Lincoln's reaction. Both feel very true to what I've read of the men.
   40. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:55 PM (#4321785)
If you are a Civil War buff, you must read Grant's Autobiography. For me it was a slog, like a Robert Caro book, but eminently enjoyable and well worth the investment.
   41. GregD Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4321788)
I'm no McClellan fan but there a few important caveats:

1) No one was better at drilling shopclerks into a real Army. This was not an insignificant attribute in the war's first years when Regulars made up less than 5% of the Army.

2) Despite the severity and discipline #1 required, few people were more beloved by their men.

3) McClellan's failure is something we shouldn't swallow too easily. Yes, he hated to lose battles, but he also really hated to lose the soldiers he had worked so hard to mold. That isn't perhaps the ideal quality in a general but it's not clear to me that it is a general moral failing or proof of cowardice. I don't think he was at all a coward in regard to himself; he was overly cautious about his men, but that's not at all the same thing as cowardice. The coldness that Grant and Lee and S Jackson and Sherman felt about the death around them made them effective but isn't the only measure of morality.

4) McClellan was too young for what was put on him too quickly. The ridiculous letters to his wife are partly failings of his personality, partly just immaturity. Had he served under a serious commander in the field, he might have learned to temper himself (or might not) but having been given the Army so quickly it isn't surprising that he began to think of himself as Napoleon.

5) McClellan was opposed to federal emancipation but he was not a surrender monkey, and he ran against the Democratic platform. In the most-racist campaign in US history, yes. And he probably would have taken terms from the South after inauguration if he won, as Lincoln did not. All of which would have been disastrous. But he was not a Peace Democrat. And for that matter, when the orders switched to helping speed emancipation, he enforced them. He would never have devised them but he was not committed to blocking them.
   42. Ron J2 Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4321790)
#38 I had lots of minor issues with Battle Cry, but even so, well worth the read.

Killer Angels is also superb. The books by his son less so (though basically readable)
   43. Steve N Posted: December 11, 2012 at 12:58 PM (#4321791)
I find Foote to be extremely long winded. Hard to read.

For more on McLellan I would recommend 'Long Road to Antietem' by Slotkin.

As Edmundo says, Grant's Personal Memoirs are excellent. I particularly like the chapters on the Mexican War. (His training mules section is some of the funniest material I have ever read.) It bogs down late when his writing was abbreviated by his health. Dying does sort of make you be brief.

Downloadable for portable devices from Project Gutenberg.
   44. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 01:01 PM (#4321793)
I didn't think Grant's Memoirs were that much of a slog at all, actually. His prose style is crisp and to the point (very much like the man himself, it would seem), and I greatly appreciated the fact that spared the reader a bunch of uninteresting pre-war biographical tofu-filler, instead more or less cutting straight to the Mexican War and then the Civil War.

My only issue with Grant's Memoirs is a historical one, insofar as the overwhelming popularity of his account played a role in what I consider the unjust obscuring of George Thomas and George Meade's accomplishments during the war. (Then again, Thomas shouldn't have burned all his damned papers right before he died, either...what a self-abnegating move.)
   45. greenback likes millwall Posted: December 11, 2012 at 01:28 PM (#4321816)
Still haven't found anybody whose work I like more than Catton's -- and while I've cut back in recent years I used to read an awful lot on the ACW.

I've been listening to David Blight's Civil War lectures on YouTube, and he sighed at one point that people these days don't read Catton like they used to. That's surprising to me, since his writing is so engaging.

His arm is likely toast, so I don't blame the Cardinals for releasing him, but I'm going to miss Kyle McClellan facing all the guys named Lee.
   46. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 01:37 PM (#4321821)
3) McClellan's failure is something we shouldn't swallow too easily. Yes, he hated to lose battles, but he also really hated to lose the soldiers he had worked so hard to mold. That isn't perhaps the ideal quality in a general but it's not clear to me that it is a general moral failing or proof of cowardice. I don't think he was at all a coward in regard to himself; he was overly cautious about his men, but that's not at all the same thing as cowardice. The coldness that Grant and Lee and S Jackson and Sherman felt about the death around them made them effective but isn't the only measure of morality.

This is a really damning trait in a General.

It's one thing to not be a butcher, that's admirable. But, to fear losses so much that you lose all agressiveness, is completely self-defeating. Especially in an era when camp disease killed many times the number of men battles did. If McClellan had pressed home the attacks and won a decisive victory at Antietam, an extra few thousand dead that day might have saved hundreds of thousands of deaths by ending the war years earlier.

Patton and MacArthur are excellent examples of American Generals who maintained agressiveness while avoiding meat-grinder tactics. The contrast between MacArthur's losses, and the butcher's bill paid in the Central Pacific Navy-run campaign are striking.
   47. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 11, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4321831)
but I'm going to miss Kyle McClellan facing all the guys named Lee.

Ah, he just intentionally walked them.
   48. esseff Posted: December 11, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4321856)
All this commentary on Civil War generals and names, and no one has noted that it began with a piece written by Sickels (though, really, I'm not sure he has a leg to stand on).
   49. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4321864)
All this commentary on Civil War generals and names, and no one has noted that it began with a piece written by Sickels (though, really, I'm not sure he has a leg to stand on).
If you RTFA (or rather, the comments to TFA), it's brought up there. The spelling is different, however. The incompetent political general was Dan Sickles.
   50. GregD Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4321909)
This is a really damning trait in a General.
Oh I agree. The commentary on McClellan even in this thread often turns to damning him as a person as a coward; that's not correct, in my view, and it worries me when people take caution about sacrificing lives as a sign of moral failing. In his case it's a professional failing, and a huge one. He had enough other personal failings.

If you RTFA (or rather, the comments to TFA), it's brought up there. The spelling is different, however. The incompetent political general was Dan Sickles.
Pretty fair general in overseeing Reconstruction, as it turned out.
   51. Best Regards, President of Comfort Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:38 PM (#4321924)
Recent reevaluation has shown that McClellan was outnumbed at the Seven Days, by about 110,000 to 100,000, albeit not by the 2:1 ratio McClellan believed.
I'm going to have to see some sort of citation for that.
   52. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:39 PM (#4321928)
Pretty fair general in overseeing Reconstruction, as it turned out.
Doesn't shock me, really -- his skills were political rather than military, after all.
   53. Best Regards, President of Comfort Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4321936)
Also, anyone who wants to read about Gettysburg should read The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command by Edwin Coddington.

Lost Cause though they are, R.E. Lee and Lee's Lieutenants should be must-reading for any Civil War student. Just keep them in proper context.
   54. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:45 PM (#4321940)
Oh I agree. The commentary on McClellan even in this thread often turns to damning him as a person as a coward; that's not correct, in my view, and it worries me when people take caution about sacrificing lives as a sign of moral failing. In his case it's a professional failing, and a huge one. He had enough other personal failings.

Concur. He wasn't a coward of any stripe, just a damn bad general who always took counsel of his fears.
   55. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:46 PM (#4321942)
Ugh, I really can't stand Douglas Southall Freeman. Now there is the historian that people accuse Foote of being.

That said, his research into Lee's command style and relationships with his subordinates is invaluable and largely unimproved upon.
   56. GregD Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:51 PM (#4321949)
It is interesting to see the interaction in the way generals operated during and after the war. Despite Sickles background as a Democrat, and his initial desire to appease the ex-Confederates, he became increasingly exasperated and aggressive over the course of Reconstruction. Sheridan was always a bull in a china shop after Reconstruction (in the service of what we would now see as a greater good.) Grant always loved him despite Grant's undeserved reputation for conservatism. Pope was also an asskicker as he had been in the war, and with a similar disregard for civilians' feelings in the South but then was at times surprisingly sensitive about the Indians when out on the Plains--he could be brutal in wars but thought the white settlers were to blame for almost all the problems on the Plains. Sherman was kept out of the South but was obviously the extreme case of an aggressive general who wanted a passive post-surrender policy. Thomas was cautious and sensible but wanted to keep as far away from it as he could. Hancock was Sheridan's opposite, a bull in service to ideas we would no longer find so amenable. Meade was a strange case as he was by nature conservative but also very responsive to changes on the ground and so could vary between a near Shermanesque resignation to the situation on the ground in the South and a sudden determination to make those Southerners obey him. He listened to his subordinates; he had no interest in listening to politicians. Lots of generals were skeptical of black suffrage but even more resistant to white violence and disorder; the longer they stayed in the South the more radicalized they became.
   57. Best Regards, President of Comfort Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:52 PM (#4321950)
Concur. He wasn't a coward of any stripe, just a damn bad general who always took counsel of his fears.
He also hauled ass out of the combat zone during the last few days of the Seven Days and was out of touch. At the Battle of Glendale, where the Army of the Potomac faced possible destruction, George McClellan was on the gunboat Galena, completely out of touch with the battle. He left no officer in command in his absence. He should have been cashiered for that act alone.
   58. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4321956)
GregD --

What would you recommend as the best work to pick up on Reconstruction, specifically the political aspects and the roles of the ex-Union generals in administering it?
   59. Ron J2 Posted: December 11, 2012 at 03:02 PM (#4321969)
where the Army of the Potomac faced possible destruction


My biggest complaint about Civil War commentary is this invoking of "army could have been destroyed"

Civil War armies were damned hard to destroy. Nashville is about as comprehensive a victory as you can imagine and the army wasn't "destroyed". Likewise Chattanooga. As long as a hard core of the army remained it was just plain difficult to organize the kind of pursuit that turns defeat into destruction.
   60. GregD Posted: December 11, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4321974)
Esoteric--
On Reconstruction generally Foner's big volume (not the short version) is clearly still the work even 25 years after.
But military doesn't matter much to him.

On military and Reconstruction:
James Sefton US Army and Reconstruction--great if dry
Some good state studies--Mark Bradley on North Carolina and Joseph Dawson on Louisiana
Brooks Simpson's books on Grant have good stuff on the Army and the South and are unimpeachable as scholarship
None of them is biographical in a way that a non-specialist might want (except that Simpson is biographical on Grant.)
You'll have to make some of the connections between their CW experiences and their Reconstruction experiences but you'll be able to, it sounds like.


Sefton is about 45 years old at this point but the field turned away from military stuff toward labor/emancipation/enfranchisement in the 70s. I think it is changing again; Mark Grimsley is doing good stuff, and some other people are at work, and I imagine that the field will look quite different in 4-5 years if those books come to fruition.

There also is a good book to be written on the relationship between generals' experiences in the South and out in the West after the war but that isn't really happening now, as far as I know.
   61. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 03:10 PM (#4321983)
My biggest complaint about Civil War commentary is this invoking of "army could have been destroyed"

Civil War armies were damned hard to destroy. Nashville is about as comprehensive a victory as you can imagine and the army wasn't "destroyed". Likewise Chattanooga. As long as a hard core of the army remained it was just plain difficult to organize the kind of pursuit that turns defeat into destruction.


The combination of the terrain in the war theatres, and the underdeveloped cavalry on both sides made pursuit quite difficult, as compared to 19th c. European wars.
   62. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 03:55 PM (#4322057)
I'm a HUGE military history buff, but I just can't get into the Civil War. It's like WWI (before 1918), unrelenting slaughter with barely a hint of interesting strategy or tactics.


Your take on WWI is likely influenced by the popular historical tradition that focuses on the Western Front to the exclusion of just about everything else and treats the whole war as a long, boring slog. That's far from the truth. In fact, I think strategically and tactically World War One may even be more interesting than World War Two. There was an amazing amount going on, and the Western Front from 1915-1917 forms only a small part. A short recommended reading list to broaden your horizons:

Peter Hopkirk: Like Hidden Fire. First part discusses German intrigue and military efforts in Persia and Afghanistan. Second half covers British troops fighting the Turks in front of Baku.

Mark Thompson: The White War. Covers the Italian front, combining military and social history. A fascinating account of fighting in difficult terrain, but the narrative is far from a slog.

Hew Strachan: The First World War in Africa. Read about interesting campaigns like the German soldiers fighting in Libya a generation before Rommel's Afrika Korps.

Norman Stone: The Eastern Front 1914-1917 The definitive account of World War I in the East.

Terence Zuber The Battle of the Frontiers: Ardennes 1914 Have only dipped into this but it looks very good. A nice detailed tactical discussion of the opening weeks of the war in the west.

There's been a lot of recent literature on tactical development on the Western Front 1914-1918 that overturns a lot of popular conceptions of that part of the war, but that's another topic. A good place to start would be:

Robin Prior: Command on the Western Front: The Military Career of Sir Henry Rawlinson 1914-1918

I also like:

Robert Asprey: The German High Command at War: Hindenberg and Ludendorff Conduct World War I
   63. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 04:01 PM (#4322072)
Recent reevaluation has shown that McClellan was outnumbed at the Seven Days, by about 110,000 to 100,000, albeit not by the 2:1 ratio McClellan believed.

I'm going to have to see some sort of citation for that.


The best numbers one can find come from an unpublished MA thesis by Leon Walter Tenney, "Seven Days In 1862: numbers in Union and Confederate Armies before Richmond." George Mason University, 1992. Considered to be the most definitive source for troop numbers, though hard to get a copy of. Although an MA thesis, it is 300 pages, extremely well sourced, and goes down to regimental level.

You can also look at Thomas Livermore's book "Numbers and Losses in the Civil War in America 1861-1865", page 86. He gives 91,169 Union effectives v. 95,481 Confederate for the Seven Days as a whole. Livermore is also an excellent source.

The difference between the two is that Tenney is counting men Present for Duty (less those sick) and Livermore counts forces actually in combat.

P.S. Note Livermore also counts 51,000 Confederates at Antietam, considerably more than older sources that painted Lee as terribly outnumbered (that includes 8,000 cavalry which did not participate much in the battle).
   64. Mike Webber Posted: December 11, 2012 at 04:15 PM (#4322104)
Hey, I try to find a WW2 or other military history book for my dad every year at Christmas. If anyone has a great list like Slivers of Maranville (SdeB) did in for WW2 or the Civil War I'd appreciate it. I'd prefer a better story than a academic type of book. I got him "Unbroken" last year, which he really enjoyed.
   65. Bug Selig Posted: December 11, 2012 at 04:33 PM (#4322137)
I've read quite a bit of WWII history, mostly Pacific (ex-Marine bias, I guess). What would you guys suggest as 2-4 books that might constitute a "Civil War 101" for someone interested but new to the subject?
   66. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 04:40 PM (#4322151)
no one has noted that it began with a piece written by Sickels (though, really, I'm not sure he has a leg to stand on)


Legitimate LOL there.
   67. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 04:41 PM (#4322157)
I've read quite a bit of WWII history, mostly Pacific (ex-Marine bias, I guess). What would you guys suggest as 2-4 books that might constitute a "Civil War 101" for someone interested but new to the subject?
Depending on your tolerance for epic length, I still prefer Foote's trilogy. But it's a long haul. I'd say the best single place to start is still James McPherson's Battle Cry Of Freedom. Bruce Catton's This Hallowed Ground is another fantastic one to begin with.
   68. Bug Selig Posted: December 11, 2012 at 04:42 PM (#4322160)
Thank you. I will pass these on to my kids as X-Mas approaches:-)
   69. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 04:43 PM (#4322161)
Legitimate LOL there.
We are such history nerds here at Primer.
   70. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 04:44 PM (#4322164)
Since this is a Civil War thread, what do you guys think of Phil Kearny as a commander? He was one of my favorites as a kid, but I'd be interested to hear a more sophisticated take from people who know more than I do.
   71. Ron J2 Posted: December 11, 2012 at 04:53 PM (#4322174)
#51 I'm still going to go with Livermore (Numbers and Losses) as the default unless somebody can provide really good evidence that Livermore missed something. I mean he's not infallible, but he did put in an awful lot of work.
   72. esseff Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:02 PM (#4322196)
DSM (#65),

I started with the Catton centennial trilogy -- "Coming Fury," "Terrible Swift Sword," "Never Call Retreat" -- and it worked for me.

Catton's is a very literal, basic history, oriented to the who-what-where of events/battles.
   73. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:03 PM (#4322198)
The only drawback with Livermore is that his work is done top-down so it's not easy to check his work as he goes; you have to trust in his professionalism. Tenney's work, posted above, is bottom-up, working from the regimental numbers.
   74. Zach Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:16 PM (#4322221)
The Brooks Simpson bio of Grant is really excellent. I've been keeping my eye open for the second volume for quite some time.

Grant is one of the great misunderstood geniuses of the Civil War, to my mind. Part of that is that he seems so prosaic and commonsensical that you lose track of he chances he's taking and the success he's having. Then, too, most of his flashy successes came in the West.

Analysing generalship in the East is hard to do, because the geography was not suited to the kind of manouvering warfare that people versed in Napoleonic generalship were expecting (including the generals). Almost all of the fighting was within a heavily wooded, geographically confined region with several rivers. The objectives were fixed well ahead of time, and well known to all participants. It just wasn't the sort of war that could be won by outsmarting the other man.
   75. Ron J2 Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:18 PM (#4322226)
#70 Not enough to go on really. That said, I think it likely that he'd have been comparable to Hood as a division commander. He had the same insane courage. His troop loved him and responded well to him. Basically I think it likely that he'd have commanded a division sized force that would have been comparable to the Iron Brigade (before it was all used up) in impact. But it was highly likely that he'd have stopped a bullet sooner or later (probably sooner)

No idea how well he'd have done at the corps level (and if he survived a promotion would be almost inevitable). Courage and charisma aren't precisely the most important aspect at that level. Many of the best divisional commanders were undistinguished corps commanders.

Actually the record of Civil War corps commanders is not great. Jackson is the clear best for detached command. Longstreet for tactical command under a commanding general (his record in independent command was poor and that's a potential problem given his seniority). After that I don't know. Hancock and Hardee I guess. Many divisional commanders with outstanding records at that level and no higher.
   76. Steve N Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:24 PM (#4322234)
BMTHOAG mentioned Phil Kearney. Lost an arm in the Plains, I think. On the Peninsula Oliver O. Howard also lost an arm. Kearney went to visit. Howard had his only know witticism. He said, "Well, Kearney, now we can buy our gloves together."
   77. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:24 PM (#4322235)
It just wasn't the sort of war that could be won by outsmarting the other man.


And yet Lee outsmarted Grant on several occasions, as Grant himself admits. And I think it's wrong to claim that Grant was some uber-pragmatist. His famous saying was "I will fight it out on this line if it takes all summer." It did take all summer. And the autumn. And the winter. And the following spring. It's pretty clear that Grant felt that taking Richmond would be a relatively easy job, but it proved to be much, much tougher than he planned.
   78. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:32 PM (#4322247)
Your take on WWI is likely influenced by the popular historical tradition that focuses on the Western Front to the exclusion of just about everything else and treats the whole war as a long, boring slog. That's far from the truth. In fact, I think strategically and tactically World War One may even be more interesting than World War Two. There was an amazing amount going on, and the Western Front from 1915-1917 forms only a small part. A short recommended reading list to broaden your horizons:

I've read extensively on WW1. It just doesn't grab me like other conflicts.

If you like obscure theatres, you should read "The Germans that Never Lost", Edwin Hoyt, about German East Africa, the cruiser Koenigsberg, and Gen von Lettow-Vorbeck.

I don't think it's still in print, but you can get it used on Amazon for $28.
   79. Zach Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:34 PM (#4322249)
And yet Lee outsmarted Grant on several occasions, as Grant himself admits.

That sort of makes my point, because outsmarting Grant didn't lead to victory. The way the geography was set up, it was impossible to force victory by seizing a center of gravity or achieving strategic checkmate. Instead, the army itself had to be beaten, either by fighting or by outright encirclement. And, as #59 points out, armies of that era were extremely hard to destroy.
   80. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:40 PM (#4322256)
Hey, I try to find a WW2 or other military history book for my dad every year at Christmas. If anyone has a great list like Slivers of Maranville (SdeB) did in for WW2 or the Civil War I'd appreciate it. I'd prefer a better story than a academic type of book. I got him "Unbroken" last year, which he really enjoyed.

John Keegan is always a good choice. His the "Second World War", "6 Armies in Normandy", or "Faces of Battle" are all excellent. Has he read Cornelius Ryan? "The Longest Day" and "A Bridge too Far" are great. Panzer Battles by von Mellenthin is an excellent book from the German perspective.

Also, anything by Sir Basil Liddel Hart: "History of the Second World War", "Strategy", "German Generals Talk".

I've read quite a bit of WWII history, mostly Pacific (ex-Marine bias, I guess). What would you guys suggest as 2-4 books that might constitute a "Civil War 101" for someone interested but new to the subject?

No such thing as an ex-Marine ;-)

But, seriously, you've got to read "The Last Stand of Fox Company". It's about the Chosin Resevoir campaign, and a stand by a single company of Marines against 5,000+ Chinese, that saved the whole 1st Marine Div from being encircled.
   81. GregD Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:41 PM (#4322258)
The Brooks Simpson bio of Grant is really excellent. I've been keeping my eye open for the second volume for quite some time.
Did you read Let Us Have Peace:Ulysses S. Grant and the Politics of War and Reconstruction, 1861-1868? It overlaps with Triumph over Adversity but also extends beyond it.

Joan Waugh's recent book on Grant is partly about the shifts in the public memory of Grant but also has good stuff on Grant himself.

McFeely's won the Pulitzer but is light on military stuff.

Haven't read Brand's but Simpson's blog makes it sound like a disaster.
   82. Steve N Posted: December 11, 2012 at 05:42 PM (#4322260)
I recommend Gordon Rhea's books on the Overland Campaign. It is clear that Grant and Lee each caught the other in mistakes. By the way, Grant did not fight it out on that line all summer. He was constantly moving.
   83. Mike Webber Posted: December 11, 2012 at 07:00 PM (#4322325)
Thanks Snapper! I read the description of "the last stand" and I think he would like that one too.
   84. GregD Posted: December 11, 2012 at 08:58 PM (#4322456)
Charles Royster's Destructive War is a good one that combines biography and military issues, though it is not a comprehensive study.
   85. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 11, 2012 at 09:58 PM (#4322473)
"Masters of the Air" by Donald L. Miller gives wonderful description of what it was like to be in a bomber crew. Some discussion about strategy and tactics but more focused on the lives of the guys.

"Flag of our Fathers" by James Bradley is the story of the 4 guys who were photographed** raising the flag on Iwo Jima. Good battlefield descriptions as well as the personal stories of the guys and their families.

** They were not the first guys to raise the flag on Mt. Suribachi.

"American Caesar" covers the full life of Douglas McArthur, from growing up in forts in the West to advising Johnson on VietNam, so it's not just a WWII book. I'm hard pressed to think of a more complex character in American history than McArthur.
   86. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:28 PM (#4322500)
Incidentally, I too saw Lincoln and was thoroughly impressed. Not just by Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln, but also by David Strathairn's performance as William Seward,


Geez. I'm not sure I knew this movie existed (I never go to the cinema, & the only thing I really pay any sort of attention to is horror, anyway), but Strathairn is my favorite actor -- I'll definitely keep an eye out for this on Netflix.

Speaking of the Civil War, was visiting the Shreveport area over the weekend & found myself yesterday with a first cousin in an old rural cemetery taking photos of the gravestone of an ancestor who fought for the 15th Alabama Infantry, Company D. If the larger headstone by the small CSA stone is for the same guy (same initials & surname, no death date on either one), he would've enlisted at age 16 or so. I gather he was discharged with a wound or something in that vein on July 1, 1862, so he missed Gettysburg & other conflicts of note that his company subsequently fought in.

(Otherwise, I suppose I might not be here. I don't have a family tree at this writing, but I'm pretty sure he was my great-grandfather, though my cousin wasn't sure if he fathered our grandfather or our grandmother [they were first cousins]. Since this wasn't the future West Virginia, I at least feel fairly comfortable in asserting that he didn't father both.)
   87. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:28 PM (#4322501)
Haven't read Brand's but Simpson's blog makes it sound like a disaster.
I liked Brooks Simpson's Grant bio, but from reading his blog he strikes me as being more than little insufferable in that territorial academic way. I don't really get the point of his constant attacks on the lame Southern Revanchist pseudo-historians like DiLorenzo, et al. (or, even worse, the stupid Facebook fringe "League of the South" morons). Those guys are jokes, unworthy of his time or anyone's serious engagement. If anything, he elevates them to a stature they don't deserve by fixating on their idiocy. Just seems like a waste of time.
   88. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:29 PM (#4322502)
[double post]
   89. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:33 PM (#4322505)
Geez. I'm not sure I knew this movie existed (I never go to the cinema, & the only thing I really pay any sort of attention to is horror, anyway), but Straithairn is my favorite actor -- I'll definitely keep an eye out for this on Netflix.
You'll be waiting awhile, as it's still in theaters. Can't say enough good things about Strathairn's performance as Seward, though -- it is every bit the equal of Day Lewis's Lincoln, and that is no small praise. James Spader is also really fantastic as the affably sleazy political fixer Seward hires to purchase Democratic votes in the House of Representatives for the 13th Amendment.

Really, there isn't a bad performance in the whole film.
   90. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:42 PM (#4322517)
You're almost tempting me to venture out to a theatre, Eso.

Assuming, of course, that it's even playing locally. I am sitting here in the First Capital of the Confederacy, after all.
   91. Morty Causa Posted: December 11, 2012 at 10:43 PM (#4322519)
"American Caesar" covers the full life of Douglas McArthur, from growing up in forts in the West to advising Johnson on VietNam, so it's not just a WWII book. I'm hard pressed to think of a more complex character in American history than McArthur.


I go along with this assessment of both MacArthur and of Manchester's biography. It's a great biography of distinguished military man who only knew how conduct himself by skirting the edge--at at least in his relationships with his superior--and of course the problem is one of character: he brooked no equals even when he was in a subordinate position. Manchester's first two volumes of The Last Lion, on Churchill, are perhaps even greater achievements, especially as Churchill the character gives him more scope (MacArthur the man seems to have had no interior life).
   92. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:02 PM (#4322541)
This has been a real fun thread. I initially felt a spasm of guilt for intentionally sending it veering off-topic, but we've gotten so much quality discussion out of it. Somebody make sure that Szym doesn't find out.
   93. VoodooR Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:35 PM (#4322568)
This has been a real fun thread


Totally agree. Best OT thread in years, and I say that as someone that generally enjoys the other sports, music and some political threads.

I don't have much to add, other than I am currently reading Foote's Narrative, so was excited to see some discussion of it. And the rest of the thread is great, too.
   94. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:39 PM (#4322574)
Really, there isn't a bad performance in the whole film.


I'd say DDL pulls off being Lincoln about 90% of the time.

I'd say Sally Field pulls off not being Sally Field about 10% of the time.
   95. zenbitz Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:51 PM (#4322580)
Derek Jeter is General Hooker
   96. Esoteric Posted: December 11, 2012 at 11:52 PM (#4322581)
I don't have much to add, other than I am currently reading Foote's Narrative, so was excited to see some discussion of it. And the rest of the thread is great, too.
The middle book of the trilogy really is just incomparably entertaining. It's a function of the war's history, of course. Volume 1 has 1st & 2nd Bull Run, Shiloh, Ft. Donelson, New Orleans, the Peninsular Campaign, and climaxes with Antietam, so you can't really say it lacks for drama. (Shiloh is the clear highlight for me -- Foote wrote a historical novel about it before undertaking the Narrative, and it shines through in his effortless mastery, organization, and presentation of the material.) Volume 3 actually feels like a bit of a slog for me -- which I suppose accurately reflects the long, grinding, brutal denouement of the war -- but his account of Grant's maneuvers through the Wilderness and Spotsylvania are still quite exciting.

But nothing compares to Volume 2, which begins with a double bang at Frederickburg and Murfreesboro and follows thereupon with one ridiculously dramatic high-stakes battle after another: Chancellorsville, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, the Tullahoma campaign, Chickamauga, and finally Chattanooga. I think Foote's account of the almost unbelievable Union uphill assault (and by "uphill" I mean practically up the side of a mountain) on Missionary Ridge is perhaps the literary high point of the entire three volume work. It remains one of my fondest history-reading memories of all time, that's for sure: when I first read these books, in high school, I didn't actually know what was going to happen. Sure, I knew how all the famous East Coast battles turned out (I was born on the anniversary of Antietam and live with two hours of every single major battlefield in PA, MD or VA), but the Western theater was as much a mystery to me as I suspect it remains to most Americans, even reasonably historically informed ones.

That is another positive aspect of Foote, by the way: he was one of the first major chroniclers (especially from a Southern perspective where, due to the influence of Freeman, it was All Lee All The Time) to truly give equal time to all the engagements in the Western Theater, and not just treat them as some kind of minor prelude to the career of Ulysses S. Grant. With the exception of Gettysburg (naturally), I find the major engagements and campaigns in the West to be vastly more interesting, both in terms of the personalities involved and the battlefield tactics.
   97. zenbitz Posted: December 12, 2012 at 12:03 AM (#4322584)
I always thought McClellan's story would make a great movie. Act III begins with McClellan triumpantly taking over the AoP for the second time, the "three cigars" but ends bitter sweet with the tactical draw at Antetam, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

On books...

I am a fan of David Glantz for WW2 Eastern Front stuff, but it's real operational study, not a novel. I second BH Liddel Hart but his "Strategy" book reads like a freshman composition essay (shockingly, every battle ever supports his hypothesis either directly or indirectly)

One great fictionalish book on WW2 I liked was "Europe Central".
   98. Tim D Posted: December 12, 2012 at 12:08 AM (#4322588)
All the performances in "Lincoln" are good to excellent. It's worth seeing on the big screen even if it is 99% talk and political horse trading. Some quibbles but they are so minor as to be unworthy of mention. I fully believe Spielberg captured the essence of the time and the man.

The American Heritage Pictorial History of the Civil War is great for kids, as is the companion book to the Burns series. Big pictures and maps. Loads of fun. But I would say the seminal works to introduce a "virgin" to the American Civil War are This Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (historical fiction), and the oft-mentioned Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson. The latter is particularly good for its treatment of the causes of the war. For a one-author treatment of the battles I prefer Foote, but Catton's works are great and there is a treasure trove of newer scholarship available on the individual battles. Stephen Sears, Harry Pfanz and Noah Andre Trudeau are all excellent. Coddington's book on Gettysburg, mentioned above, is dry as toast, but the battlefield docents at Gettysburg are basically required to memorize it. Springing for a guided tour of the battlefield is one of the great bargains on earth.

A couple of notes on reading the thread. Foote's "waif" comment may seem a little paternalistic and a tinge racist but it is in no way, I believe, meant to denigrate blacks as being incapable of citizenship as opposed to ignorant and unprepared. Foote's point is that emancipation without appropriate reconstruction (including protection) was a sin. He was right. He goes on to point out what a better reconstruction would have looked like. You can moan and groan about Southern Democrats stopping reconstruction, but the Republicans had huge majorities and had all kinds of trouble getting spending bills to help blacks passed. And the Army was pulled out of the South with agreement of the GOP for the expedient of the deciding votes in the 1876 presidential election. The political will for a reconstruction that protected blacks did not exist in the North. Foote did not say he would "still" fight for the Confederacy, he said he would have fought for it if he had been a southerner in the 1860s. Most southerners were not slave owners. They were largely pro-slavery and certainly what we would call rascist today. And as such they were no different than huge segments of the north. Lincoln himself had serious doubts about whether blacks would ever truly "fit in" or whatever term you want to use. He fiddled around with returning them to Africa as a "humane" policy option. Reconstruction was a disaster and Foote rightly says so. Lincoln was the only Republican who could have held the wings of the party together to work a reconstruction that would have protected and empowered the Freedmen without Stalinizing the South (what the Radical Republicans wanted). Without Lincoln the radicals tried to impose their will and they couldn't do it, no more so than the rebels could save the slave power.

McClellan was an excellent quartermaster and drill sergeant. As a commanding general he was utterly lost. The Peninsula campaign has been aptly commented on. He had Lee's whole plan for the Maryland campaign, took three days longer than necessary to get to Antietam, sat there staring at Lee for a day, apparently praying he would skedaddle back across the Potomac. He then undertook a piecemeal attack which was virtually assured to do nothing but kill and maim a lot of boys while permitting Lee to use his interior lines to transfer men back and forth. He let a third of his army sit idle and watch. When AP Hill showed up to save Lee's bacon, (8000 men also included in Livermore's number; at the beginning of the battle McClellan had 85,000 infantry and Lee had 33,000) McClellan did not put his idle corps into action. He sat the next day and stared at Lee again, again apparently praying he would go away which he finally did. All when a resounding victory in the east (if not the "destruction" of Lee's army) would have put enormous pressure on the rebels to quit. They were losing everything in the west, the blockade was starting to have a real effect, the manpower reserves were already running short, the economy was a wreck, and in October of 1862 they still could have negotiated a peace that would let slavery die out over time rather than by legislative fiat. But McClellan couldn't go for it, so he gave us the bloodiest day in American history to absolutley no strategic or tactical end. Politically it was victory enough for Lincoln to issue the Emancipation. A real victory might have ended the war but prolonged slavery. Who knows which would have been worse for African Americans over time.
   99. Esoteric Posted: December 12, 2012 at 12:51 AM (#4322618)
Foote did not say he would "still" fight for the Confederacy, he said he would have fought for it if he had been a southerner in the 1860s.
On the one hand, this shouldn't be a difficult sentiment to understand and forgive, unless one is utterly incapable of understanding people in their historical context, as opposed to judging retrospectively. It's altogether too easy to forget that the Civil War was fought in an era where one's state and/or regional ties were still far more determinative in defining one's allegiances than any sense of national, federative identity.

On the other hand, it should make us that much more impressed by (and grateful to) those who rejected such siren songs to fight for the Union. I'm thinking particularly of George Thomas (Virginia) and David Farragut (Tennessee-born, married to two Southern women and living in Norfolk at the time of secession). Thomas was actually disowned by his family for choosing to remain faithful to his country rather than his state; if I recall correctly, they literally never spoke to him again.
   100. Esoteric Posted: December 12, 2012 at 01:04 AM (#4322631)
Springing for a guided tour of the battlefield is one of the great bargains on earth.
I've done this three times, once with my dad when I was younger, once in my college years, and once in the past four years. It's fresh every single time.

For my money, the best "battlefield tour" experiences are Gettysburg, Antietam and Shiloh. It's a shame that many of the battlefields in the Western theater haven't been as well-preserved as the Eastern ones (Shiloh is the major exception).
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