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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 | 631 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: civil war, history, rays, royals

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   101. Sunday silence Posted: December 12, 2012 at 03:23 AM (#4322699)
I dont want to really defend MaClellan but it's easy to down play his weaknesses w/o realizing he had some strengths. Most people are rather complex, and Mac certainly was.

One of the best discussion boards about civil war stuff can be found at Consimworld which covers all military conflicts but the ACW is pretty intense. Here's a recent snippet (which in fact contains a reference to CSA numbers in the Penninsula campaign if you look closely)


http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?7@@.ee6c7d6/19521

There's some really knowleageable people there including one: Dave Powell who has done a good job convincing us on the numbers Mac faced at the 7 days. He was likely outnumbered by the CSA forces which to me is about the only way of making sense out of that whole campaign. A lot of issues including the casualty rates, the tactics employed by Lee, MacLellans maneuvers etc. only make sense if both sides were operating with at least a suspicion that Lee outnumbered Mac.

In fact if you go to that link I posted above, Mr. Slivers of Maranville sounds a bit like Dave Powell. (see post no 18928 in the above)

[note you can join up and post on Consimworld w/o paying money, although there is a solicitation for contribution, it is not needed to participate. It's a very nice place]

ANyhow I will say this about the Penninsula campaign. Mac did a rare strategic maneuver to re position his base of operations in the face of the confederate advance. I think this was no small feat but his detractors always down play this. The other pt. is that he managed to plant the army of the Potomac at the gates of Richmond as early as the spring of 1862 with very little loss. It would take Grant another two more years and heavy casuaties before this same thing could be again achieved.

Henry Steele Commanger went out of his way to try to pt. out the differences in '62 and '64 but I think the similarities are striking.

That Mac failed is no surprise he was really not suited as a battlefield general. Neither in terms of facing death or changing his plans under pressure. His prickly personality probably made him unsuited for any sort of commander in chief rule.

One need only think of Eisenhower and how he held Allied powers together having to deal with the likes of DeGaulle, Churchill, Field Marshall Montgomery, the RUssians, etc. He constantly had to bite his lip and listen to BS from these guys in order to hold it together.

The contrast with MaClellan is stark. Here MaClellan is dealing with Lincoln who was usually quite patient w/ such people and he's tearing him a new arsehole...

It would be funny to think of MaClellan having to deal with DeGaulle before entering Paris; or Montgomery at Caen; or the Russians at Warsaw, or admiral Darlan in No. Africa, or Marshall Badoglio before Salerno..
   102. Sunday silence Posted: December 12, 2012 at 03:34 AM (#4322701)
More from Mr. Powell on the numbers in the 7 Days; courtesy of the consimworld site:



For historians, however, these calculations can be used to offset some common historical biases that have crept into the 'common wisdom' of the war. For the Seven days, it has been widely assumed for decades that Lee had 80,000 men, while MAc had about 110,000; meaning that when Lee took 60,000 of them north of the Chickahominy he to fight Porter, he was leaving barely 20,000 troops to defend Richmond against at least 85,000 Federals.

IN fact, however, with better numbers, we know that Lee left more than 40,000 men to face Mac's 75,000 - not nearly as long odds as Generations of ACW Historians have assumed. Less than 2-1 and with the defenders dug in? pretty good odds, actually.

But we only get to those numbers by meticulously building up the picture unit by unit. There simply aren't good army level returns for both sides for all phases of the campaign, let alone the whole war. So while knowing that the 7th Georgia had 611 men in ten companies might not tell us much individually, taken together, that's how we know what force the Confederates mustered in June, 1862.
   103. zenbitz Posted: December 12, 2012 at 12:12 PM (#4322934)
WTH someone else reads consimworld and BBTF? What is your handle there?
   104. zenbitz Posted: December 12, 2012 at 12:14 PM (#4322943)
On the plus side, McClellan (also Burnside and to an extent, Hooker) lured Lee into a false sense of security when he was facing Meade at Gettysburg.
   105. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 12, 2012 at 12:34 PM (#4322969)
I am also a consimworlder.
   106. Ron J2 Posted: December 12, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4323013)
#104 Could be. On the other hand, the decisions made at Malvern Hill and the third day at Gettysburg were very similar. I think it's clear evidence that Lee didn't really fully understand the power of the relatively new weapons in a prepared defense.

Of course he was on the other side of the equation at Fredericksburg. To my mind that makes the decision to attack the Union center even less defensible.
   107. zenbitz Posted: December 12, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4323070)
Well, if you want to look me up I use my real name "Ben Hitz". Normally in the OCS and other Gamers/MMP forums, also Totaler Krieg and the crazy new Youst "GOSS" boardgames.
   108. zenbitz Posted: December 12, 2012 at 01:45 PM (#4323073)

@106 I was mostly joking. Funny cause it might be a little true? I know (or rather, have read) that he had nothing but contempt for McClellan in particular and AoP commanders "in General" (nyuk, nyuk).
   109. zenbitz Posted: December 12, 2012 at 01:48 PM (#4323074)
Speaking of ACW and consimworld --- if you like "real men's" board games you need to try the Gamers CW "Brigade" and "Regimental" series (the latter being replaced with "Line of Battle"). In these games, you actually have to write out (long hand!) orders to your Corps/Divisions/etc. and roll to see when (and sometimes if!) they are accepted and implemented.

for example "
"A.P. Hill's corps to advance to the sunken road and hold Dunker's farm" (I am mussing up my battlefield geography but you get the idea).

Orders are kept secret from your opponent - and it's just an honor system to keep to what your wrote.
   110. Ron J2 Posted: December 12, 2012 at 01:59 PM (#4323090)
#109 Many years ago I actually played "Terrible Swift Sword" with commanders not actually at the board. We got down to the corps level.

Very interesting. Very, very slow though. We never finished the first day.
   111. Ron J2 Posted: December 12, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4323094)
#108 It's absolutely true that he mourned Mac's replacement in that he felt he could predict him totally. For somebody who was as naturally aggressive as Lee that's huge.
   112. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 12, 2012 at 02:05 PM (#4323097)
I know (or rather, have read) that he had nothing but contempt for McClellan in particular and AoP commanders "in General" (nyuk, nyuk).


Actually, I have read the opposite. I recall Lee saying he thought McClellen was the best Union general of the war.

edit: Well, I don't literally reacall lee saying that, but I did read it.
   113. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 12, 2012 at 02:09 PM (#4323102)
From wiki:

Robert E. Lee, on being asked (by his cousin, and recorded by his son) who was the ablest general on the Union side during the late war, replied emphatically: "McClellan, by all odds!"


The source is Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee.
   114. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 12, 2012 at 02:13 PM (#4323105)

Well, if you want to look me up I use my real name "Ben Hitz". Normally in the OCS and other Gamers/MMP forums, also Totaler Krieg and the crazy new Youst "GOSS" boardgames.


Wow, Ben Hitz? I know you very well from the TK forums. I'm the designer of Kingdom of Heaven.
   115. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 12, 2012 at 02:14 PM (#4323108)
For those who doubt wiki, here is the original source, at the top of page 416.
   116. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: December 12, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4323116)
Great thread. As far as war books go, I recently read "This Kind of War", which was absolutely mezmerizing. It put me on a big kick of reading history written closer to the actual events. I'm reading The Best and the Brightest now.
   117. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 12, 2012 at 02:21 PM (#4323119)
Robert E. Lee, on being asked (by his cousin, and recorded by his son) who was the ablest general on the Union side during the late war, replied emphatically: "McClellan, by all odds!"


nice to see quality snark preceded the internet by at least 120 years.
   118. Ron J2 Posted: December 12, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4323128)
Robert E. Lee, on being asked (by his cousin, and recorded by his son) who was the ablest general on the Union side during the late war, replied emphatically: "McClellan, by all odds!"


And yet Freeman has a quote of Lee saying something very different at the time.
   119. SOLockwood Posted: December 12, 2012 at 02:33 PM (#4323130)
I'm a consimworlder as well -- My real name is Jonathan Fellows -- although I'm mostly a lurker.
   120. GregD Posted: December 12, 2012 at 03:01 PM (#4323160)
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.


Precision is really important here.

1) "the Republicans had huge majorities and had all kinds of trouble getting spending bills to help blacks passed." I'm not sure what "spending bills" you are referring to, but the timing is really important. Republicans had large majorities from 1861-1875. Let's leave off 1861-1865 for the sake of this discussion.

1865-1866 pass Civil Rights Bill, Freedmen's Bureau Bill, override Johnson's veto, pass 14th Amendment
1867--pass Military Reconstruction Acts requiring Southern states to enfranchise freedpeople
1868-1870 Bring in Southern governments with freedpeople voting and pass 15th Amendment
1871-1875--When voting comes under attack, pass Ku Klux Klan Acts, authorize most significant peacetime domestic military action in history that stamps out Klan. Create a Department of Justice in large part to prosecute Klan cases. Pass Civil Rights Act of 1875 that extends to hotels, restaurants, places of amusement, public accommodations.

In 1874 midterms, Democrats win a massive majority in the House, so large they begin trying to impeach Grant.

From then on, the Republicans at times have small majorities in each house but not "large majorities." During that time, with those small majorities they come agonizingly close to passing--twice a Federal Education Bill more radical than any that has ever passed a US Congress to this day, including NCLB, and an Elections investigation bill that would be brought into the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A few Republicans voted against these bills, but virtually all Democrats did. Despite the failure of those acts, the Republicans led major investigations into voting rights abuses in the South throughout this period.

It's tempting to say that Republicans should have had a magic wand and understand precisely what they should do at each step. Or that they should be able to override democratic processes. They worked through a faith in suffrage that was sincere even if it turned out to be misplaced. When that came up against problems, they passed the first major enforcement efforts in federal history. Then the Democrats beat them, shut them down with the Posse Comitatus Act. Then the Supreme Court started to roll back the laws the Republicans passed.

I'm not saying the Republicans were perfect, but your portrayal just doesn't conform with the timeline of what happened. If Republicans were omniscient and omnipotent, your claim would make sense. To say they weren't omniscient isn't to say very much.

I have no idea what it means to call Reconstruction a failure. It was the second large-scale enfranchisment of a formerly enslaved population in world history. Over the next decades, black land ownership grew at an unprecedented rate in the South; at times blacks were elected to thousands of small offices and helped rewrite land-lien laws, among other things. If your standard is Utopia, it was a failure, I suppose, but then everything under the sun is a failure.

That lasted for about 35 years. In the 1890s, Southern Democrats overthrew city and state governments and launched another wave of violent counterattacks then passed very effective disfranchisement laws which the Supreme Court validated. That launched the so-called nadir of Jim Crow from the 1890s-1950s. That stands out precisely because it is so unlike 1860s to early 1890s.

If the critique is that they couldn't build something in 1867 that would withstand assault in 1895, fine. But nothing can, including our own rights. There are no bulletproof vests out there for rights.

Things had changed by the 1890s--though still in 1891 the Republicans fought one last time for the Elections Bill and nearly passed it. The acquiescence of Northern Republicans to disfranchise after it was accomplished in the South and ratified by the Supreme court is not a proud moment in the party's history but is hardly to be blamed for Reconstruction since the leaders of the Reconstruction party were mostly dead by then.

   121. GregD Posted: December 12, 2012 at 03:08 PM (#4323172)
In terms of the 77 withdrawal of the Army, it didn't have to do with any deal with the Democrats, but was part of a backpedaling after the 1874 midterms and the Democrats post-1875 efforts to defund the Army and cut it to a shell of its already reduced self. The Republicans nominated Hayes who said from the start he would withdraw troops and did.

In response to this fig branch, Democrats refused to pass any Army budget at all in the House and adjourned, leaving Hayes to try to raise money from private charity to avoid discharging the Army entirely.

In 1880, Republicans turned from Hayes to Garfield, no saint, but known as the most-ardent defender of the federal education bill in Congress, and his faction deposed the Hayes group. Garfield chose a conservative VP to preserve unity. Garfield was then assassinated and that conservative VP became president.
   122. Publius Publicola Posted: December 13, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4323886)
Interesting thread. I am a lurker but felt compelled to post in this thread to add my two-cents on a number of the opinions posted and to clear up some ambiguities about Shelby Foote. See below:

When Burns’ Civil War documentary was aired in the late 80s’s, Shelby Foote emerged as the superstar of the show. His slow, syrupy southern drawl was pitch perfect for the tone of the presentation and his perspective was different from all the other SMEs- he tended to focus on the individual soldier and had a lot of interesting anecdotes about the participants, famous and non-famous. But some of the things he said caused a great deal of consternation amongst professional historians. At the time, I thought this was mostly the result of jealousy and professional rivalry. But I have come around to their view. Foote’s Civil War views seem to me to be myopic, provincial and lacking in moral perspective. In fact, I don’t think it inaccurate to label him a petite racist. Let me provide support.

Regarding the “because you’re down here” quote. First, it’s both anecdotal and inaccurate. It was the South that fired the first shot, on Ft. Sumter. Foote doesn’t seem to be cognizant of that fact, that the South was spoiling for a fight and actually wanted to settle things violently, thinking “one southerner is equal to 10 Yankees”. Secondly, it is not true on another level. A lot of the rank and file were in the Confederate army not because they wanted to, fighting for their way of life, but because they were forced to. The war from the southern point of view was fought to preserve the right to own slaves by the southern plutocracy. They were very plain about that when they drafted their constitution. Obviously, the right to own slaves was irrelevant to the poor southerners and the yeoman craftsmen and farmers. Many southern soldiers were conscripted, and would desert if they could. Sally Jenkins wrote an excellent history called The State of Jones, that puts the lie to the ridiculous romantic “Lost Cause” notion entertained by Foote and the other revisionist historians. Jenkins book documents a rebellion led by Newton Knight, a Battle-of-Shiloh deserter, who with his friends and relatives, waged an effective guerrilla war in Jones County, Mississippi against the Confederate establishment, in several instances killing Confederate officers sent there to impress the able-bodied male population. In a way, it’s a shame that Foote didn’t get to fight for the Confederacy. If he had, he could have witnessed firsthand how wretched the existence was for the average soldier and it would have purged from him forever any romantic notions about the war he might have entertained.

Then it’s his shocking opinions regarding the performance of the negro soldier. In the series, he really raised eyebrows when he said about the negro Union soldier that his collective contribution was “overrated” and the only thing they proved was that “they could stop a bullet as well as a white man”. This is shockingly untrue and shamefully denigrates their true worth. The negro soldiers made great contributions to the Union cause. The all-black 54th Massachusetts regiment is just one example. I could name a dozen more.

Then there is his admiration and support for Nathan Bedford Forrest. In one interview, he smiles as he recalls how much of a thrill he got on a visit to one of Forrest’s descendents, where he was allowed to swing his cavalry sword around his head. And how he said the Civil War produced two truly great men- Lincoln and Forrest. Unbelievable, comparing Lincoln and Forest as equals. From everything I’ve read about Forrest, he appears to be a nihilistic murderer, a fascist, a psychopath and an irredeemable racist. He sold slaves for money before the war, he had them mercilessly and needlessly killed during the war, and terrorized them after the war, when they had been freed. He should have been hung for the Ft. Pillow massacre alone, when the troops under his command bayoneted negro soldiers who had already surrendered. Foote buys in to the revisionist mythology erected around Forrest as propagated by the Nashville Agrarians, a preposterous group of writers centered around Vanderbilt who needed a symbol for southern male virility and the "Lost Cause" ethos. Foote evens apes that ethos, referring to Forrest “all man” and a “natural genius”. That’s Foote’s definition of manhood and genius I suppose, someone who thrives by the remorseless exploitation and slaughtering of a defenseless and despised minority.

Finally, to understand Foote’s “enlightened” views on race, here’s a quote that I lifted from a commentary he wrote that was published in the Wall street Journal a few years ago:

“There is something rather odd in the way America has come to fight its wars since World War II.

For one thing, it is now unimaginable that we would use anything approaching the full measure of our military power (the nuclear option aside) in the wars we fight.

[...]

Why this new minimalism in war?

It began, I believe, in a late-20th-century event that transformed the world more profoundly than the collapse of communism: the world-wide collapse of white supremacy as a source of moral authority, political legitimacy and even sovereignty. . . .Today, the white West--like Germany after the Nazi defeat--lives in a kind of secular penitence in which the slightest echo of past sins brings down withering condemnation. There is now a cloud over white skin where there once was unquestioned authority. I call this white guilt not because it is a guilt of conscience but because people stigmatized with moral crimes--here racism and imperialism--lack moral authority and so act guiltily whether they feel guilt or not.”


And there you have it. In Foote’s view, supremacy precedes moral authority. And it explains why he is seemingly unaware of the racist roots of the war he is supposedly an expert on, why he can, without irony, favorably compare a murderous psychopath to one of the greatest figures in human history,
   123. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: December 13, 2012 at 09:04 PM (#4324370)
This is, indeed, an interesting thread. Too bad RETARDO isn't around much these days to chime in on it. I have a recommendation for light reading on the Civil War. Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic is a quick and fun look at reenactors and other buffs. I read it around the time of the Sabr Convention in DC.

I'm a New Englander, so I'm more of a Revolution and Early American history buff, but I prefer McPherson to Foote. I tried to read Foote, but it didn't take at the time. To be honest, I've learned more about the war at a little museum in Rockville, CT as well as some battlefield visits than I did from books. Same thing with the American Revolution. Visiting places like Yorktown, Lexington, Concord over the years were fun and informative.
   124. Publius Publicola Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:23 PM (#4325005)
I want to comment on this as well, because the assumptions embeded in it are so problematic:

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.


Nowhere have I read anything that would indicate Grant thought taking Richmond would be easy. In fact, his intention was not to take Richmond at all. His target was Lee's army. Read what his standing order to Meade was when he became overall commander of the union forces:

...all the Armies are to move together and towards one common center … Sherman will move … [against] Jo Johnston … Lee's Army will be your objective point. Wherever Lee goes there you will go also."

In order to conclude the rebellion, Grant (and Sherman) decided that it wasn't territory that had to conquered but the rebelling armies arrayed against them. Additionally, where did Lee outsmart Grant? Grant would maneuver, Lee would make a guess as to his objective, and there would be periodic confrontations when the armies collided, such as the Wilderness, Cold Harbor and Spotslvania Courthouse. After a violent battle where Lee's line refused to crumble, Grant would disengage and maneuver again. Grant eventually did outmaneuver Lee, feinting to the right and then moving left across the James River to threaten Richmond from the rear by way of Petersburg. This forced Lee into a siege defense, which he could not survive for long. He ended up surrendering a few months later when the desertion rate became so high, his defensive line was fatally weakened. Grant knew exactly how to defeat Lee, and defeat him he did. It took him about a year.

Another poster asked what WWII book he could give dad for a gift. One I highly recommend is 1942 by Winston Groom. The description of the Coral Sea naval engagement is especially good.
   125. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: December 14, 2012 at 04:48 PM (#4325045)
I have a recommendation for light reading on the Civil War. Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic is a quick and fun look at reenactors and other buffs.


Seconded. I read it a couple of years ago (& was astonished to come across one vignette featuring, IIRC, the wife of an instructor at my very small alma mater in southwest Arkansas). The same author's much more serious recent look at John Brown is also quite good.
   126. Ron J2 Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:30 PM (#4325099)
#122 While what you say about Forrest the man is true, his record on the battlefield was superb.

Brices Crossroads is still taught at Sandhurst (or was the last time I checked) and there are a heck of a lot of other fine battlefield performances. H`is coverage of the retreat from Nashville prevented the Army of Tennessee's complete destuction.

His raids were also extremely effective. In particular the one in the first Vicksburg campaign. (Started with about 2,000 green troopers -- only partly armed. Came back with more men than he'd started with -- armed with captured equipment)

I don't think there's any doubt he was the best cavalry commander of the war. Even then (like Cleburne) he was under-used.

All that to say that it's not a contradiction in term to see Forrest the man as you do and Forrest as one of the few truly great generals to emerge from the war.

Not precisely an equal opportunity maniac, but he's known to have killed at least one Confederate officer in addition to everything else on his resume.
   127. Mike Webber Posted: December 14, 2012 at 05:48 PM (#4325120)
I ended up ordering The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat by Bob Drury, Tom Clavin, and The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau by Alex Kershaw for dad, but thanks for all of the ideas. I book marked this page so I'll use some other of the suggestions in the future.
   128. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:13 PM (#4325256)
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....


You miss the real kicker to that one. This exchange between Grant and Lincoln occurred during Jubal Early's raid on Washington. Now as I recall it, perhaps in reading Battles and Leaders or somewhere, was that Grant was all set to pack up the entire army and head back north to stop Jubal Early. Rawlins, his chief of staff, and a man who closely managed Grant before during and after the war, told him; "That is exactly what Lee wants you to do.." And convinced him to send Sheridan and whoever else went there.

So this quote is often repeated as some sort of testament to how determined Grant was and yet it seems he could be distracted. Rawlins was a great factor in his success. For his part: Grant was a great writer and communicator of orders. If you read any of his messages or his accounts, it is all very clear and concise what is occuring. YOu can constrast those with say Stonewall Jackson and if you read his orders, it often vague or confusing just exactly what he is saying.

As for Forrest, I think what Foote was saying was that he was a military genius and Lincoln the political genius of the war. Forrest does seem to be some sort of military genius. But it might go to far to say he was the very best cavalryman of the war. Jeb Stuart turned up a lot of information and cause a great deal of confusion on many occasions.

Forrest's escape from the siege at Ft. Donelson is another excellent example of his leadership skills.
   129. Sunday silence Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:19 PM (#4325258)
Another poster asked what WWII book he could give dad for a gift.


Another one is The Pacific War by Costello, which is probably the best single volume treatment of that half of WW II. He has an interesting style his narrative moves quickly from being in with a company commander in Guadalcanal back to high command in Washington. All without getting too distracted by the details. It's pretty good on that score.
   130. Publius Publicola Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:41 PM (#4325269)
RonJ,

Acknowledged he was an excellent cavalry commander. But what he was being asked to do wasn't decisive. His units were relatively small and on horseback. Unlike an infantry commander, if he felt he was in too tight a spot, he could always disengage. But being a great cavalry commander and being a great man are two entirely different things.

It's difficult to compare the confederate and union commanders because their tasks were so different. The nature of the conflict favored the confederates because they were just trying not to lose, and so hit-and-run, guerrilla-style tactics suited the strengths of a cavalry unit better.

It's a truism that the confederates had the advantage in cavalry at the beginning of the war but by the end, the union cavalry was better, both because of better arms and commanders. Forrest got beat up pretty good by Wilson near the end.
   131. Publius Publicola Posted: December 14, 2012 at 10:43 PM (#4325272)
And convinced him to send Sheridan and whoever else went there.


I think it was Wright's corp. Early was significantly delayed at the battle of the Monocacy by none other than Lew Wallace, the guy who was late to Shiloh.
   132. akrasian Posted: December 14, 2012 at 11:25 PM (#4325295)

I think it was Wright's corp. Early was significantly delayed at the battle of the Monocacy by none other than Lew Wallace, the guy who was late to Shiloh.


He was probably busy writing "Ben Hur".
   133. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 15, 2012 at 09:39 AM (#4325404)
Obviously, the right to own slaves was irrelevant to the poor southerners and the yeoman craftsmen and farmers.

The po' whites did have a vested interest in preserving slavery -- less competition for lands and jobs. Exactly how much that figured into their thinking on a day to day basis, I don't know.
   134. Morty Causa Posted: December 15, 2012 at 12:08 PM (#4325474)
Well, that works both ways. Slavery was taking jobs from them, and depressing their earning. The planters and their associated support groups had good direct cause to secede, but the poor whites? What were they fighting for except racism and a figment of the imagination when it came to bottom-line liberty--just the idea of telling people what to do and trying to make them do it can make them dig in their heels, whether that's in personal relationships or political ones. We shouldn't pooh-pooh this as a trivial made-up pretext. It's everywhere when it comes to groups (racial, ethnic, class).
   135. Esoteric Posted: December 15, 2012 at 02:40 PM (#4325554)
Tactically speaking, what you'uns say is the most brilliant Confederate and Union victory on the battlefield? Second question: the most exciting?
   136. Publius Publicola Posted: December 16, 2012 at 10:02 AM (#4325939)
Most brilliant, for the Confederates, it would be Chancellorsville. For the Union, Vicksburg.

Most exciting? That's an ambiguous question. What do you mean by exciting?
   137. Publius Publicola Posted: December 16, 2012 at 11:05 AM (#4325954)
I suppose I should explain my reasoning for the above.

Chancellorsville was Lee's masterpiece. He was outnumbered by a significant and yet still had the courage to split his army, sending Jackson's corp on a forced march around the enemy flank to the rear of the enemy without being detected (how Hooker allowed that to happen is one of those mysteries of history that I suppose will never be satisfactorily answered).


But Vicksburg is the masterpiece of the entire war. Thinking about it now, it is almost unbelievable what Grant accomplished, getting both his army and navy south of Vicksburg, crossing the river successfully without getting mauled by an enemy attack, and then curling his army around to the rear of Vicksburg with a hostile army to the front and another to the rear, all while cut off from a supply line, is just a tour de force of daring and organization (now there's a campaign, not a battle but a campaign, that is still studied at Sandhurst).
   138. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 16, 2012 at 01:44 PM (#4326005)
It's a truism that the confederates had the advantage in cavalry at the beginning of the war but by the end, the union cavalry was better, both because of better arms and commanders. Forrest got beat up pretty good by Wilson near the end.


The more I study the Civil War the more I come to believe that cavalry was what dominated it. The Confederacy whipped the Union repeatedly with mostly inferior numbers and supplies for the first two years largely because they had excellent cavalry under Stuart's command, whereas the Union's cavalry was spotty and often misused by its commanders. Result: McClellan and his successors really didn't know how many men Lee had or where the hell they were much of the time, whereas Lee usually knew exactly where his enemy was and in what strength. By Gettysburg and its aftermath the Union finally got around to assembling real cavalry and a commander who knew how to use it, Stuart got killed, and the Confederacy lost one of its largest advantages.
   139. Esoteric Posted: December 16, 2012 at 02:30 PM (#4326021)
But Vicksburg is the masterpiece of the entire war. Thinking about it now, it is almost unbelievable what Grant accomplished, getting both his army and navy south of Vicksburg, crossing the river successfully without getting mauled by an enemy attack, and then curling his army around to the rear of Vicksburg with a hostile army to the front and another to the rear, all while cut off from a supply line, is just a tour de force of daring and organization (now there's a campaign, not a battle but a campaign, that is still studied at Sandhurst).
This was my thought as well, both in terms of the most impressive Union victory and, in a strategic sense, one of the most exciting. But it's not a battle, as you point out, rather a long campaign. Every aspect of the Vicksburg campaign is fascinating, particularly on a command level: the multiple failed early attempts at scoring a breakthrough revealed much about Grant's character (namely his willingness both to come up with creative plans and move on from them when they proved impracticable rather than becoming fixated or befuddled), and the execution of the actual overland march confirmed it (i.e. his constant adjustments and on-the-fly improvisations once he was over the river).

In terms of a single battle that just excites me, I will again say that there is nothing quite so improbable in the entire Civil War as the Union army under Thomas climbing up what is essentially a cliff, unbidden, to rout the Confederates on Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga.
   140. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 16, 2012 at 03:55 PM (#4326050)
Thanks to whoever recommended Grants memoirs. I've had that book on my shelf for years and never felt like reading it. It's quite easy to read.
   141. Sunday silence Posted: December 16, 2012 at 08:05 PM (#4326209)
As for why the south won so much, dont over look that most of these battles were fought on southern soil where they had a significant advantage in enemy intelligence. WHen southern armies moved north, it was often a different story, e.g. Gettysburg, Antietam (a tactical draw), Perryville. Also, defenders seemed to win a good proportion of these battles and of course the south was mostly fighting defensive actions.
   142. Publius Publicola Posted: December 16, 2012 at 10:35 PM (#4326276)
I find the assigning of winners and losers to every ACW battle problematic. Many of the battles, even the largest battles, were indecisive and so no winner or loser should be assigned. For instance, Lee is often credited with winning The Wilderness or Spotsylvania Courthouse because his army failed to yield the field when the fighting stopped. But he was also failing to stop Grant from continuing on to his objective, which was to destroy the Army of Virginia. Every battle that was fought between Grant and Lee between the spring and fall of 1864 you could describe as a tactical victory for Lee but also a strategic defeat except for, I think, Cold Harbor. Lee kept losing men and real estate he couldn't afford to lose, even as he kept Grant from shattering his line. Grant forced him into a bloody confrontation he couldn't hope to win. When Lee and Grant faced off against one another in The Wilderness, Grant had a personnel advantage of a little less than 2:1. Less than a year later, it was about 10:1, and Lee was practically out of supplies and ammunition.

You can argue credibly that Lee was the better tactical commander (and I have my doubts about that) but there is no doubt that Grant was the superior general strategically.
   143. Sunday silence Posted: December 16, 2012 at 10:45 PM (#4326283)
IT's very difficult to compare them on their strategic grasp because Lee was never given strategic command whereas Grant more or less had control of all union armies by I think 1864 It is hard to say what Lee would have done in place of Davis/Bragg and whatever else passed for confederate high command.

OTOH it does seem that Lee had little impact on the big picture. Invading Penna. as a way to relieve pressure on VIcksburg makes no sense at all for example. Other than sending Longstreet west in the fall of 1863 there was little in the way of strategic concentrations that characterize generals like Napoleon or Frederick the Great.

My guess it that Lee felt it was not his place to suggest this to the president. Lee seems to be a pretty humble character. But just a guess.

As for assigning w/l in it is always problematical, but you are focusing on a time in the late war when attrition became a viable strategy and it makes these battles difficult to assess. Earlier in the war it is a little easier to assign w/l. THere seemed like a great many battles that were victories for the defender: Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Antietam, Fredericksburg, etc.
   144. Publius Publicola Posted: December 16, 2012 at 10:50 PM (#4326286)
It was always easier then to hold your ground and to inflict intolerable casualties when on the defensive. Mobile infantry with air cover and armored support hadn't been invented yet.
   145. zenbitz Posted: December 16, 2012 at 11:05 PM (#4326299)
Agree about Chancellorsville.

Vicksburg isn't really a tactical success but an operational one. If that counts, does Sherman's march? Or Stonewall in the Valley?

I guess the Union, generally having numerical superiority, didn't have a lot of opportunities for a true tactical victory.
   146. Publius Publicola Posted: December 16, 2012 at 11:30 PM (#4326312)
Sherman's March was both a tactical and strategic victory, though there was relatively little actual fighting that went on. Franklin was certainly a tactical victory for the Union. Jackson's campaign in the valley was a tactical and strategic victory, in that it kept the Union forces from preventing Lee from obtaining his supplies there and Lee didn't have to be worried about being attacked from the west, at least for awhile.

How many forces one has to work with doesn't really have anything to do with being credited with tactical victories, beyond that it makes it easier to have them. When you have the better of it despite being outnumbered, it does tend to burnish ones reputation, which is why Lee's is so high. But Lee got his clock cleaned both times he went on the offensive. He even lost to McClellan at Antietam, who gave him every opportunity to win by being so hesitant and timid.
   147. GregD Posted: December 16, 2012 at 11:42 PM (#4326322)
On strategy, people might like The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War by Donald Stoker. It makes some counterintuitive claims, especially about McClellan's strategic sense (which he values highly) and does a good job breaking down different levels of tactical and strategic planning involved in generaling during the war.
   148. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 16, 2012 at 11:58 PM (#4326336)
When Lee and Grant faced off against one another in The Wilderness, Grant had a personnel advantage of a little less than 2:1. Less than a year later, it was about 10:1, and Lee was practically out of supplies and ammunition.

You can argue credibly that Lee was the better tactical commander (and I have my doubts about that) but there is no doubt that Grant was the superior general strategically.


I think the fact that is lasted almost a year, when Lee started out outnumbered 2:1, shows he was the better tactician. If the superior tactician had 2:1 odds, you'd expect a very quick ending.

Lee couldn't just dig in, he didn't have enough density of troops. If Grant was superior in the operational/tactical realm, he would have maneuvered Lee into a quick defeat.
   149. Publius Publicola Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:04 AM (#4326343)
McClellan would have been much better off if had been given the job of a senior staff officer like the job Halleck had, instead of a field commander. He just wasn't suited to lead an army in battle (nor was Halleck). When he was made overall commander by Lincoln, he should have had the good sense to do what Grant did, and make a subordinate the field commander. But he was probably too inexperienced and full of himself to do that.

What was amazing about the Civil War was how many high profile generals got killed. For the South, you had Polk, Stuart, Cleburne, Jackson, Johnston, AP Hill, Pender, Walker, Rodes and Ramseur. On the Unions side, you had Reynolds, Sedgwick, McPherson, Lyon, Kearney, Stevens and Berry. Unreal, considering the size of the forces involved.
   150. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:07 AM (#4326347)
Wat was amazing about the Civil War was how many high profile generals got killed. For the South, you had Polk, Stuart, Cleburne, Jackson, Johnston, AP Hill, Pender, Walker, Rodes and Ramseur. On the Unions side, you had Reynolds, Sedgwick, McPherson, Lyon, Kearney, Stevens and Berry. Unreal, considering the size of the forces involved.


And an interesting co-incidence, the son of a high ranking Confederate general, Simon Buckner Jr., was the highest ranking US officer (Lt general) killed in action in WWII.
   151. Publius Publicola Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:10 AM (#4326349)
Grant forcing Lee to surrender in 11 months is in my opinion a quick defeat. Grant did maneuver Lee into an untenable position, though much of the maneuvering was sanguinous.

I love Grant's biography. I think it is the best thing any president ever wrote besides the non-biographical writings of Jefferson and Lincoln. His turns of phrase are terse yet descriptive. For instance, when a battle occurred where the Union forces were severely beaten, he would say that the unit had been "roughly handled".
   152. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:16 AM (#4326354)
Grant forcing Lee to surrender in 11 months is in my opinion a quick defeat. Grant did maneuver Lee into an untenable position, though much of the maneuvering was sanguinous.

Did any opponent last 11 months when outnumbered 2:1 against any of the truly great Captains? It's hard to imagine Napoleon, or Frederick the Great, or von Moltke having a 2:1 (and growing) manpower edge, and taking 11 months to finish off their opponent.

Not that Grant was bad, he was good, but Lee was very good. Neither was great.
   153. Publius Publicola Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:32 AM (#4326371)
Alexander the Great was almost always outnumbered in his battles and yet won every time and executed a few complete routs.

Grant was indeed great, the greatest general of that or perhaps any other war. I don't know any serious expert of military history, foreign or domestic, that does not think so, save a handful of southerners with an axe to grind. He proved it over and over, at Ft. Donelson, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and finally, Appomattox. Grant is the greatest general this country has ever produced. He was outnumbered at Ft. Donelson, and practically speaking the initial parts of the sieges of Vicksburg and Chattanooga. Everyone talks about Vicksburg but what he accomplished at Chattanooga was equally astonishing, given the natural terrain and initiative advantages the enemy had.
   154. odds are meatwad is drunk Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:50 AM (#4326397)
Grant better then any other US general? I don't know if I can agree with that, but in absence of concrete evidence I cannot argue otherwise.
Off the top of my head though, I would put Patton up there, and can we count Admirals? Nimitz was pretty solid as well
   155. Sunday silence Posted: December 17, 2012 at 02:47 AM (#4326465)

Alexander the Great was almost always outnumbered in his battles and yet won every time and executed a few complete routs.



If the pt. is to show that Lee wasnt great, you probably could not have picked a worse analogy. It is way off in terms of the era; the amount of political power that they respectively had; the types of armies they were facing; the logistical and political resources at the disposal of Alexander, etc. It is way off as an analogy. You would make a better argument by finding commanders at least within a few hundred years...


Grant was indeed great, the greatest general of that or perhaps any other war. I don't know any serious expert of military history, foreign or domestic, that does not think so, save a handful of southerners with an axe to grind


I dont believe that is true. I think among west point educated officers, Lee is thought to be the best commander in US history. You could also offer up Winfield Scott and Geo. S Patton.
   156. J.R. Wolf Posted: December 17, 2012 at 03:20 AM (#4326469)
Grant was just a master of attrition tactics, and that's not strategy.

Among the Civil War and military experts I have known the consensus best general of the war was Nathan Bedford Forrest.
   157. Publius Publicola Posted: December 17, 2012 at 09:03 AM (#4326500)
If the pt. is to show that Lee wasn't great, you probably could not have picked a worse analogy.


Snapper asked for an example so I gave him one. There was no intention to make a comparison to Lee.

Grant was just a master of attrition tactics, and that's not strategy.


Then how do you explain Ft. Donelson, where he forced a larger force in an entrenched position inside a fort to surrender without having to fight? Or Vicksburg, were he maneuvered between 2 separate armies while crossing a large river cut off from his supply lines and forced the surrender of the more strategically important of those armies with modest losses, inflicting defeats in 5 separate battles? Or Chattanooga, when he dislodged an entire army from a far superior position while attacking uphill? Upmountain might be a better description.

And those were just campaigns we are talking about. Grant had it right in his overall strategy, which was to keep constant pressure on the enemy so that he could not use his superior interior lines to reinforce one front or the other as the need arose, like happened previously at Chickmauga, for example, where Longstreet's corp was rushed by rail to counterattack when Bragg appeared in danger of being routed. Once Grant was given the top job, the Confederacy was utterly defeated in a year. All the strategic started to fall like dominoes in rapid succession: Atlanta, Mobile, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Raleigh and Richmond. Grant was the one general in the whole affair who saw most clearly what had to be done, and then he went out and did it.

I dont believe that is true.


It's true. Review what disinterested British historians like John Keegan or JFC Fuller have to say about Grant.
   158. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: December 17, 2012 at 09:29 AM (#4326510)
Review what disinterested British historians like John Keegan or JFC Fuller have to say about Grant.


Well, if they're not interested, why should we care what their opinion is? <ducks>
   159. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2012 at 10:04 AM (#4326526)
Alexander the Great was almost always outnumbered in his battles and yet won every time and executed a few complete routs.

But no one is claiming that his Persian opponents were great commanders? How does a great captain winning while outnumber refute that Grant wasn't a great captain b/c he took a long time to win with a huge material advantage?
   160. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2012 at 10:10 AM (#4326531)
Grant was indeed great, the greatest general of that or perhaps any other war. I don't know any serious expert of military history, foreign or domestic, that does not think so, save a handful of southerners with an axe to grind. He proved it over and over, at Ft. Donelson, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and finally, Appomattox. Grant is the greatest general this country has ever produced. He was outnumbered at Ft. Donelson, and practically speaking the initial parts of the sieges of Vicksburg and Chattanooga. Everyone talks about Vicksburg but what he accomplished at Chattanooga was equally astonishing, given the natural terrain and initiative advantages the enemy had.

That's crazy talk. He was quite good, but no one ranks him as an all-time "Great Captain".

Just among Americans, I'd have him clearly behind Patton, and Washington. Don't know how you count Eisenhower (never actually commanded troops in battle) but he has to get some consideration. I'd also take Lee and MacArthur over Grant.

To me, no great commander ever thinks a frontal assault, without diversion or flanking, is a good idea. Whenever you think attrition is the answer, you should think again. The fact that Grant resorted to this shows he wasn't great. With a 2:1 advantage, a great commander should have been able to manuever Lee into an untenable position in short order.

Not to mention that Grant didn't even need to defeat Lee. With the Western Campaign won, and Sherman moving east, the CSA was finished. All he needed to do was pin Lee down, and wait for his army to collapse when cut off from resupply/recruitment.
   161. Ron J2 Posted: December 17, 2012 at 11:19 AM (#4326585)
But what he was being asked to do wasn't decisive.


I think you can argue that his raids were so effective that they ended the first Vicksburg campaign -- or at least played a major role.

For a commander of relatively small forces he carried out-sized weight in the Union plans. Grant wasn't much given to fretting what the other guy would do, but according to his biographer he worried a lot about Forrest.
   162. Dan Szymborski Posted: December 17, 2012 at 11:28 AM (#4326595)
So, did we ever figure out who Geroge McClellan was? Jack Morris? Both neither great nor terrible. Both needed lots of run support for their wins. Both had great mustaches and were on a ballot during an election competing with actual great candidates. Both were incessant defenders of their records in the media.
   163. Ron J2 Posted: December 17, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4326608)
#135 As I mentioned before Brice's Crossroads is still taught as Sandhurst. It's a masterpiece of small unit tactics (Forrest was outnumbered about than 2-1, and the Union forces were better equipped) The Union lost about 2,600 (1,500 prisoners and 16 guns) of a force of 8,500 and Forrest lost 492 of about 3,200. (as usual it's a guess as to how many effectives either side had entering the battle. The 3,200 to 8,500 is the consensus as best I can tell)

In contrast to most battles of the ACW there was an effective pursuit (basically all the way back to Memphis.
   164. Ron J2 Posted: December 17, 2012 at 11:49 AM (#4326621)
Forrest got beat up pretty good by Wilson near the end.


True enough. Wilson had a huge advantage in men and material and made effective use of it. Same for Smith at Tupelo. Don't recall who broke the attack at Franklin, but not a heck of a lot went right at that battle.

He wasn't a god of war, just a very effective commander at both the tactical and strategic level.
   165. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4326639)
Alexander the Great was almost always outnumbered in his battles and yet won every time and executed a few complete routs.


One of the problems with wars/battle from long ago is that the victor generally writes the history, and almost always tends to say that they won despite being outnumbered, etc etc etc., so much so you'd almost get the impression that the side with the superior numbers loses...

What Alexander had was a professional, highly trained and well equipped (for the era) Army, with a well developed and implemented tactical doctrine, and when he was outnumbered - he was outnumbered by large conscript armies that on a man for man basis were far less trained and far less well equipped- a 600 man Marine Combat battalion could make absolute mincemeat out of some random 3rd world country's 6000 man infantry division- even if the Marine commander spent the whole battle drunk and unconscious -
Alexander's main genius was strategic in continuing and building on what his father had done, in organizing, equipping and training his men, tactically he and his officer's main role was in leveraging their man to man advantage and not otherwise screwing up- the idea that he only won due to his sublime battlefield tactical genius was basically propaganda.
   166. Ron J2 Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:09 PM (#4326648)
#152 I think you're underestimating the technological factors art play in the ACW. Huge edge for the defense. Not just the muskets, the artillery of the day was an awesome defensive weapon -- the smoothbores being essentially huge shotguns, and the rifled cannons were generally good enough to put the other side's guns out of action.

That said, Grant did produce a potential war winner with the James River campaign. I know Catton argues that it was thrown away by Smith's caution (and Butler's overall incompetence). Beaurgard was very heavily out-numbered.

You can argue that having Butler in command was on Grant, but Grant knew there was nothing to be done at the time and tried to get something by giving him the most capable subordinates he could. He regarded Smith very highly (so yeah, that part is on Grant)
   167. Esoteric Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:23 PM (#4326665)
Then how do you explain Ft. Donelson, where he forced a larger force in an entrenched position inside a fort to surrender without having to fight? Or Vicksburg, were he maneuvered between 2 separate armies while crossing a large river cut off from his supply lines and forced the surrender of the more strategically important of those armies with modest losses, inflicting defeats in 5 separate battles? Or Chattanooga, when he dislodged an entire army from a far superior position while attacking uphill? Upmountain might be a better description.
Not to downplay Grant's strategic excellence, but there certainly are mitigating factors to be considered here. The victory at Vicksburg belongs solely to him, and is in my estimation a brilliant piece of planning as well as improvisational tactics. However he was certainly favored by the fortuitous choice of opponents in Joe Johnston, who throughout the course of the entire war never seemed to miss an opportunity to fail to engage the Union army. And his two failed frontal assaults on the Vicksburg fortifications after maneuvering his army into place certainly were needless slaughters.

Furthermore, when it comes to Chattanooga, the shattering of Bragg's center at Missionary Ridge had little to do with Grant's plans or Thomas' command on the scene, and everything to do with the spontaneous initiative of the soldiers themselves, under fire from above, taking it upon themselves to scale the heights and rout the enemy. It's one of the most dramatic moments of the entire Civil War in part because it combined seeming impossibility (steep uphill assault) with the shock of unanticipated spontaneity. Nobody really should get credit for Missionary Ridge except the Union soldiers who climbed the heights (and perhaps Bragg for arraying his defensive artillery so poorly).

Also, lest we forget, Shiloh was a near apocalyptic-level blunder on Grant's part. He was caught asleep at the switch, his army nearly backed up against the Tennessee river, and had affirmatively neglected to dig any sort of defensive fortifications. He had literally no idea that Albert Sidney Johnston was moving to attack him in force until he was hit head-on -- he was ten miles downriver at the outset of the battle! His entire army was arguably saved by the hard fighting (and sacrifice to encirclement and capture) of Benjamin Prentiss' division at the Hornet's Nest, as well as Sherman's absorption of the initial blow. Grant recovered well as the battle went onward, but let's not pretend that there wasn't serious irresponsibility at the outset.
   168. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4326685)
#152 I think you're underestimating the technological factors art play in the ACW. Huge edge for the defense. Not just the muskets, the artillery of the day was an awesome defensive weapon -- the smoothbores being essentially huge shotguns, and the rifled cannons were generally good enough to put the other side's guns out of action.

Which is why frontal assaults were so stupid. Given the inherent advantages of the defense (mostly the minie-rifle), you had to maneuver to achieve decision. Given the relative lack of density of force, and his large advantage in numbers, if Grant was a great captain, he would have maneuvered his way to victory.

The Prussians did it several times, with equally defense-favoring weaponry. The French/Piedmontese did it to the Austrians in Italy as well. There was no technilogical reason barring decisive victory in this era.
   169. Esoteric Posted: December 17, 2012 at 02:40 PM (#4326901)
Snapper, given your (well-argued) disdain for Civil War-era frontal assaults, how much of a demerit do you think is appropriate to apply to generals who applied them? Grant is definitely guilty of more than a few (Vicksburg, Cold Harbor, etc.), but then again doesn't Pickett's Charge weigh even more heavily against Lee, given he had to have known he was working with vastly smaller manpower resources? And -- not to return to a favorite stalking horse of mine -- how the heck does one classify Missionary Ridge? A theoretically suicidal frontal assault against the center of an entrenched defensive army...that somehow, in contravention of practically every precedent in recorded military history, turned into a overwhelming victory for the attackers.
   170. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2012 at 03:08 PM (#4326923)
Snapper, given your (well-argued) disdain for Civil War-era frontal assaults, how much of a demerit do you think is appropriate to apply to generals who applied them? Grant is definitely guilty of more than a few (Vicksburg, Cold Harbor, etc.), but then again doesn't Pickett's Charge weigh even more heavily against Lee, given he had to have known he was working with vastly smaller manpower resources? And -- not to return to a favorite stalking horse of mine -- how the heck does one classify Missionary Ridge? A theoretically suicidal frontal assault against the center of an entrenched defensive army...that somehow, in contravention of practically every precedent in recorded military history, turned into a overwhelming victory for the attackers.

Pickett's charge is certainly a big black mark against Lee. The only logical explanation would be that he thought his flank attacks had drawn so many troops from the Union center, that the line was very weak. That tactic has certainly worked many times in history, e.g. Blenheim, and many Napoleonic battles. It also fails disasterously, Gettysburg, Waterloo, etc. In reality, I think Lee was just desperate and frustrated at that point, and should rightly be criticized heavily.

Missionary ridge was a fluke. I don't think you can take anything from it except that virtually anything is possible in the chaos of war; sometimes stupid decisions work.
   171. Esoteric Posted: December 17, 2012 at 03:20 PM (#4326945)
Missionary ridge was a fluke. I don't think you can take anything from it except that virtually anything is possible in the chaos of war; sometimes stupid decisions work.
Again, for me the truly fascinating thing about Missionary Ridge is that it wasn't a "stupid decision," it was nobody's decision. Thomas' army moved forward of its own spontaneous accord! And it worked! Pretty much unique in American military history.
   172. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 17, 2012 at 03:30 PM (#4326957)
Again, for me the truly fascinating thing about Missionary Ridge is that it wasn't a "stupid decision," it was nobody's decision. Thomas' army moved forward of its own spontaneous accord! And it worked! Pretty much unique in American military history.

Yes. But if Thomas hard ordered it, it would have been stupid.

The battle of King's Mountain in the Revolution is somewhat similar. The Patriot army consisted of ~1000 "over-the-mountain" men, basically without military formation or discipline. The Loyalists positioned themselves on a heavily wooded hill, and the mountain men basically advanced independently up the slopes, and devastated the Loyalists with skirmishing tactics, and highly accurate rifle fire.
   173. Esoteric Posted: December 17, 2012 at 03:44 PM (#4326973)
Yes. But if Thomas had ordered it, it would have been stupid.
Well, that depends. By most accounts, the real reason the Missionary Ridge assault succeeded is because of Bragg's misdeployment of his artillery and defensive entrenchments. In a world where Thomas knew about such a thing it would be have been a truly brilliant stroke. But yes, in the real world, I agree -- it would have been inconceivable for a general of George Thomas's competence to order such an assault.

Which, of course, is what underpinned Grant's famous exchange with Thomas (as recounted by Maj. Gen. Wilson): Grant quickly turned to Thomas, who stood by his side, and I heard him say angrily, "Thomas, who ordered those men up the ridge?" Thomas replied, in his usual slow, quiet manner: "I don't know; I did not."

I love Thomas's laconicism. I just love it.
   174. Publius Publicola Posted: December 17, 2012 at 03:48 PM (#4326979)
Given the relative lack of density of force, and his large advantage in numbers, if Grant was a great captain, he would have maneuvered his way to victory.


It's kind of funny you say this as a criticism of Grant when he did exactly what you say he should have done. He maneuvered south of the James and fixed Lee at Petersburg where he could not help the western armies when they got annihilated. The grand plan was Grant's so you have to give him partial credit for what happened out west too. While Sherman should be credited for his tactical successes, it was Grant who put him in charge and gave him his strategic objectives.

I think you don't understand how hard it was to maneuver large numbers of men in those days. Except in the rare instances where water or rail travel was available, it was and exceedingly difficult thing to do to turn the flank of a defensive position with large numbers of men on foot, when the enemy always was monitoring your movements and had shorter distance to travel to counter your new position.

Missionary ridge was a fluke.


The central attack was a fluke. But the assault on Bragg's left on Lookout Mountain had already succeeded and the flank turned when the charge up Missionary Ridge occurred. That's what panicked the Confederates as much as the frontal assault. They knew the flank had been turned because they could see Hooker's men occupying the gun positions adjacent to them and they didn't want to get trapped in a crossfire. The Union suffered less casualties than the Confederates, despite attacking uphill. Grant would have won the battle one way or the other, even if that had not occurred. It was a brilliant piece of generalship by Grant. It was Hooker's best showing of the war. Grant got Hooker's best work out of him.

Speaking of which, Grant says something interesting about Hooker in his memoir. While he admires his courage and willingness to fight, he called Hooker "a dangerous man" because in a battle where he was but one element, he tended to detach himself and operate as a separate unit, sometimes independently of the overall strategic plan.
   175. Esoteric Posted: December 17, 2012 at 04:05 PM (#4327004)
Speaking of which, Grant says something interesting about Hooker in his memoir. While he admires his courage and willingness to fight, he called Hooker "a dangerous man" because in a battle where he was but one element, he tended to detach himself and operate as a separate unit, sometimes independently of the overall strategic plan.
I've always felt that, of all the commanders of the Army of the Potomac prior to George Meade, the only one who I could make any defense of as a battlefield general was Joe Hooker. (McClellan was a gifted organizer, but no field general.) I often wonder how Chancellorsville would have turned out in a world where Hooker hadn't gotten shellshocked by that artillery round and set back on his heels. Though I suppose that was his fatal flaw, really: Grant, Sherman, and Thomas (heck, even Rosecrans at Murfreesboro) were all far better at adjusting to unexpected hardship and duress, which in my estimation is perhaps the most important quality of a good battlefield commander.
   176. Ron J2 Posted: December 17, 2012 at 04:47 PM (#4327064)
if Grant was a great captain, he would have maneuvered his way to victory.


Assumes that which is not in evidence. Lee was in the picture too. Grant has only so many options (in part constrained by his superiors worry about Washington). The one time he seriously misjudged Grant's intentions Beauregard (and Butler and Smith) saved his bacon.

I think the decision that he doesn't get enough credit for was sending a force big (and well enough led) to crush Early's raid and not simply parry it. After that it was just a matter of time.

Worth noting that while Sherman was able to conduct a campaign primarily based on maneuver to get to Atlanta, he could get no further (and the Army of Tennessee was still a viable force until Hood threw it away). The eastern theater compressed this.



   177. Ron J2 Posted: December 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM (#4327077)
#175 I think it's telling that Sherman wanted no part of Hooker as an army commander. I think there's a strong case for regarding Hooker as a very capable corps commander (the only union commanders who I see as clearly better at that level were Thomas and Hancock. His battlefield record at the corps level is better than Sherman's to my mind, but army or army group command takes a different set of skills) who was best left at that level.
   178. Ron J2 Posted: December 17, 2012 at 06:47 PM (#4327205)
#169 Malvern Hill is an even bigger black mark. No force in the world at that time could have dislodged the union until they ran out of ammo.

The one semi-justification for cold harbor comes from a couple of actions at Spotsylvania Court House. Upton's attack on the 10th succeeded in breaking through. Lee and Ewell were able to reinforce while Upton got no support. Upton's attack was interesting on that he realized that the way units normally attacked (exchange of fire) simply didn't work, so he had his men (only 6 regiments) simply rush the Confederate works.

So Grant tried the same thing the next day with an entire corps (Hancock's). And again it nearly worked. A confederate division was nearly destroyed in the initial attack and only a desperate (the famous "Lee to the rear" attack) counter attack saved the day. Yeah, pure luck in that the artillery for the sector had been taken out of the line (in a preparation for what Lee thought was going to be more maneuvering by Grant) and the union commanders did not understand that this is why it worked so well.

In a very real sense this Confederate tactical disaster paved the way for Cold Harbor.
   179. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: December 18, 2012 at 09:17 PM (#4328132)
Just among Americans, I'd have him (Grant) clearly behind Patton, and Washington. Don't know how you count Eisenhower (never actually commanded troops in battle) but he has to get some consideration. I'd also take Lee and MacArthur over Grant.


Washington? I know he's the Father of the Country and all and he improved as the war went on but should he rank this high? He outlasted the British, but how much of that credit should go to the French or Nathaniel Greene?
   180. Mike Emeigh Posted: December 18, 2012 at 10:20 PM (#4328168)
I know he's the Father of the Country and all and he improved as the war went on but should he rank this high?


Well, the fact that the British, despite superior resources, wound up mostly bottled up in New York City for the bulk of the Revolution has to be laid at Washington's feet. That and holding the army together despite a government that was unwilling or unable to provide the level of support needed (both men and supplies).

-- MWE
   181. GregD Posted: December 18, 2012 at 10:26 PM (#4328170)
It's true. Review what disinterested British historians like John Keegan or JFC Fuller have to say about Grant.
I agree on the judgment of Grant but would not trust Keegan's account of anything in the American Civil War. He was obviously a great historian but totally out of his element on the Civil War and his book is full of howlers. Jim McPherson--no headhunter--wrote perhaps the toughest review of his career about Keegan's book.

Some choice passages:
The analytical value of Keegan’s geostrategic framework is marred by numerous errors that will leave readers confused and misinformed. I note this with regret, for I have learned a great deal from Keegan’s writings. But he is not at top form in this book....
But Keegan’s grasp of river geography and other terrain features is shaky. He confuses the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, seems to place the Confederate forts Henry and Donelson on the wrong rivers, has the Kanawha River join the Monongahela River at Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River (it is the Allegheny River that joins the Monongahela, while the Kanawha empties into the Ohio 150 miles southwest of Pittsburgh) and shifts the state of Tennessee northward, where he says it “gives on to” Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. The Confederates did not abandon their strong point on Island No. 10 on the Mississippi River; Union forces surrounded and captured it with its 5,000 defenders. Tunnel Hill at Chattanooga is not a feature of Lookout Mountain, and the battle of Cedar Mountain did not take place in the Blue Ridge.

There are many other errors in the text, perhaps foreshadowed by wrong dates for a half-dozen battles on the map at the beginning of the book. North Carolina did not escape Union invasion until almost “the end of the war” (it was first invaded in February 1862); the old canard that some Union soldiers were bayoneted in their blankets at Shiloh is simply not true; at least 10 percent of United States soldiers in 1865 were black, not 3 percent; the British government recognized the Confederacy’s belligerent status under international law in May 1861, not 1863; and so on.

These and similar mistakes can perhaps be attributed to carelessness, but others seem inexplicable. Keegan declares that Lincoln “never learnt the importance of visiting armies in the field, from which he might have discovered a great deal,” apparently unaware that Lincoln visited armies in the field 11 times, spending 42 days in their camps. Describing the role of the United States Navy in the Civil War, Keegan makes the astonishing claim that at the outbreak of the conflict “almost all” of its “antiquated” warships were sailing vessels and that “none had been launched later than 1822.” In fact, 57 of the Navy’s ships had been launched since 1822, and 23 of them were steamships, including six screw frigates launched in the 1850s that were as advanced as any ships of their class in the world. And what is one to make of the statement by Keegan, a native Englishman, that the British prime minister during the American Civil War was Benjamin Disraeli? (It was Viscount Henry Palmerston.)

Keegan’s sympathies lie with the Union cause in the war, and he considers Lincoln a better commander in chief than Jefferson Davis. Like Grant and Sherman, Lincoln “abandoned altogether the conventional thought that the capture of the enemy’s capital would bring victory. Instead he now correctly perceived that it was only the destruction of the South’s main army that would defeat the Confederacy.” But Keegan shares a widespread misconception about Lincoln’s most eloquent expression of the war’s meaning. “The genius” of the Gettysburg Address, he writes, “lies less in his magnificent words than in his refusing to differentiate between the sacrifice of the North and the South.” This assertion could not be more wrong. The soldiers who “gave the last full measure of devotion” at Gettysburg so that the “nation might live” were Union soldiers. No Confederates were buried in the cemetery that Lincoln dedicated; they fought to break up the nation that the “brave men” whom Lincoln honored fought to preserve. Far from refusing to differentiate between the sacrifice of the North and the South, Lincoln made the most profound differentiation.


   182. Publius Publicola Posted: December 18, 2012 at 11:03 PM (#4328187)
I agree on the judgment of Grant but would not trust Keegan's account of anything in the American Civil War


While I acknowledge your point, I wouldn't take it that far. I read the same book that McPerson reviews above and I was very disappointed as well. But I think Keegan is highly competent to rate commanders on their battlefield performance asnd leadership styles, especially Grant. In fact, in The Mask of Command, he describes in detail the leadership style of Alexander the Great, Wellington and Grant, using Hitler as a negative counterpoint. That book got very good reviews.

I think Keegan had just gotten too old. It was published when he was 75 years old and perhaps was not up to the task physically. He died 3 years later.

It's funny. I read another book about the comparison of Britain and America from just before the revolution until the present by another British historian (I can't remember the name of it but it was written by a woman with an Irish surname). I swear the British are constitutionally incapable of being complimentary towards the American navy, especially in comparison to their own. This historian suggests that the US did not catch up to the British militarily until WWII.
   183. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 18, 2012 at 11:10 PM (#4328199)
Washington? I know he's the Father of the Country and all and he improved as the war went on but should he rank this high? He outlasted the British, but how much of that credit should go to the French or Nathaniel Greene?


Well, the fact that the British, despite superior resources, wound up mostly bottled up in New York City for the bulk of the Revolution has to be laid at Washington's feet. That and holding the army together despite a government that was unwilling or unable to provide the level of support needed (both men and supplies).

-- MWE


In addition, the occupation of Dorchester heights, leading to the recapture of Boston was a masterpiece. He extricated his army from numerous dangerous spots, and led a brilliant campaign at Yorktown, relocating his army across half the country w/o the British in NY stirring.

Mike understates the odds Washington faced. Britain was the most powerful nation in the world, with a highly professional military. Washington had to create an army on the fly, and he did it, and won.
   184. Publius Publicola Posted: December 18, 2012 at 11:26 PM (#4328209)
Greene should get a lot of credit though. It was his idea to move the cannons over the Berkshires to Boston. Washington was a great leader but an inexperienced tactician. He made a lot of mistakes, lost a lot of battles, but he learned from them too.

Ah, I remember now. The book I reference above is Old World, New World: Great Britain and America from the Beginning by Kathleen Burk. Here's a review.
   185. McCoy Posted: December 19, 2012 at 12:19 AM (#4328237)
I swear the British are constitutionally incapable of being complimentary towards the American navy, especially in comparison to their own. This historian suggests that the US did not catch up to the British militarily until WWII.

I can see that. The Royal Navy owned the sesa and the United States never really did a large military build up until WWII. Though the size of the US Army was formidable immediately after the Civil War it would not be able to go anywhere easily since the RN would stop it from leaving the US and inhibit supply efforts.
   186. Esoteric Posted: December 19, 2012 at 01:52 AM (#4328266)
I can't recommend most of John Keegan's works enough (particularly The Face Of Battle, The Mask Of Command and especially for anyone who wants to introduce themselves either to John Keegan or military history in general, A History Of Warfare), but I have to admit that McPherson's review there is really disappointing. I hope it was simply a product of age affecting Keegan's writing, because the flaws McPherson points out are all quite obvious and indeed not mere quibbles.
   187. Jim Kaat on a hot Gene Roof Posted: December 19, 2012 at 04:46 AM (#4328308)
Too bad RETARDO isn't around much these days to chime in on it.


My instinct is to be reticent nowadays, but you asked for it, Gary.

I don't care for military history in general and I'm suspicious of those who make a point to specialize in it. And I hate Civil War discussions because they are an energy-draining vortex of reaction and overinvested identity politics -- the latter already being exhibited in this thread -- in which the historian types are even more parched and dispassionate (as a way to avoid responsibility, IMO) than usual, the conservatives are even more cartoonish dead-enders than usual, while my natural allies (liberals) are absolutely batshit insane.

An evicted Palestinian watches an Israeli government-owned Cat dozer annihilate the olive grove his family has owned and nurtured for generations. This victim of ethnic cleansing, driven to homicidal rage against invaders, a modern American liberal can understand, even sympathize with. An Iraqi peasant whose home has been leveled by American ordnance, perhaps with his family inside it, driven to violence against invaders, a modern American liberal can understand, even sympathize with. But the average, non-slave holding Southerner in the 1860s who shot a Yankee invader? No sympathy, just hatred. Why? Because even though the typical Confederate soldier owned no slaves and probably disliked or even hated the slaveholding aristocracy, he was probably personally racist (nevermind that so was the typical Northerner) and moreover associated with a racist system and government. To the modern American liberal, literally nothing is worse than bigotry. Liberals are squeamish, often even outright disapproving of controversially brutal American actions against such legitimately reprehensible enemies as Nazi Germany (Dresden) and Imperial Japan (Hiroshima, Nagasaki). And post 9/11, genocidal sentiments uttered by the mouth-breathing conservatives in this country were rightly opposed by liberals. But speak of Sherman's total war and march to the sea, which was basically as close to a blanket fire-bombing of Georgia as 1860s technology would allow, and watch liberals become retroactive neocon war-cheerleaders, fapping to the idea of righteous carnage every bit as much Bill Kristol and David Nieporent contemplating the nuking of Mecca. Point out that the correspondence of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan included the explicit language of genocide and watch liberals say, "yay, moar plz!" Make the case that the genocidal actions and policies of Sherman and Sheridan and under an approving President Grant toward the Plains Indians in the postbellum period was a logical and inevitable extension of what was said and done to the South prior and watch liberals' blank stare. And don't get me started on liberals' attitude to Reconstruction, which was never corrupt or punitive enough to suit them, never mind that the inexplicably hated Andrew Johnson correctly attempted to implement Abraham Lincoln's relatively conciliatory plans for reintegration (in their own, subconscious way, liberals hate Lincoln every bit as much as do Lost Cause conservatives). Also note how quickly liberals embrace such traditionally rightwing tropes as "loyalty," adopting a More American Than Thou posture that would make Joe McCarthy and A. Mitchell Palmer proud. It's all worth it because Southerners were racist. If a liberal had a gun with two bullets and was locked in a room with Hitler, bin Laden, and confederate soldier, he'd shoot Shelby Foote twice, sic semper Footenus.


   188. odds are meatwad is drunk Posted: December 19, 2012 at 04:53 AM (#4328309)
187, If your smart, you shoot hitler wait for the reb to kill bin laden and shoot him last, that way your the only one left. And well an ironic post number to have in this thread considering how it ended!
   189. Esoteric Posted: December 19, 2012 at 05:12 AM (#4328313)
Nothing is more "classic RETARDO" about #187 as the casual conflation of Bill Kristol with David Nieporent.

[golf claps]

EDIT: Actually, I want to point out that the rest of that post was pretty damn well dead-on.
   190. Publius Publicola Posted: December 19, 2012 at 09:18 AM (#4328353)
But speak of Sherman's total war and march to the sea, which was basically as close to a blanket fire-bombing of Georgia as 1860s technology would allow

This is incorrect. Civilians weren't killed in Sherman's March To the Sea. Property was taken or destroyed and the slaves freed but civilians weren't killed except in the few instances where an individual soldier disobeyed orders and committed an atrocity.
   191. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 19, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4328386)
This is incorrect. Civilians weren't killed in Sherman's March To the Sea. Property was taken or destroyed and the slaves freed but civilians weren't killed except in the few instances where an individual soldier disobeyed orders and committed an atrocity.

Concur. Sherman was punctillious not to harm civilians. He was a very moral man. I've never read of anything even resembling a war crime perpetrated at Sherman's orders.

Even the New Georgia Encyclopedia admits

Physical attacks on white civilians were few
   192. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: December 19, 2012 at 11:13 AM (#4328443)
This historian suggests that the US did not catch up to the British militarily until WWII.


Which is quite possibly accurate- in fact despite passing the UK in population size and industrial might- before WWI, we were never as strong as them militarily until after our entry into WWII, when we completely blew past them and never looked back.

After WWI our frontline Naval strength moved into rough parity with the UK's, but they had far more Naval reserves, they maintained a larger standing army (even though theirs was quite small by European powers), and a larger Air Force.

Among industrially advanced nations our military was miniscule compared to our population and resources

   193. DonPedro Posted: December 19, 2012 at 11:17 AM (#4328447)
Re: post#122

It appears that you have attributed a quote to Shelby Foote when the New York Times article in question was actually by Shelby Steele.
   194. Ron J2 Posted: December 19, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4328527)
even if the Marine commander spent the whole battle drunk and unconscious


Which brings us back to the ACW and a major lost opportunity. James Ledlie is widely reported to have been drunk at the Crater. Certainly he was out of contact with his division and the failure to take advantage of the Crater is largely on Ledlie.

And on Burnside for giving Ledlie (by simple drawing of lots, rather than his selecting the guy he felt was most able) such a key role (and not making sure Ledlie was on the job during the battle)

And it's sort of on Grant for giving the job to Burnside (though it would have been awkward not to give Burnside the job. His people came up with the idea. He backed it. He had the troops with the mining expertise)

   195. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: December 19, 2012 at 01:18 PM (#4328588)
War is all hell.
   196. GregD Posted: December 19, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4328598)
Have any of you read John Fabian Witt's Lincoln's Code? It should be called Lieber's Code, but it's a very well-written and intellectually serious grappling with the development of the laws of war in the Civil War and the complex relationship between laws of war and aggressive policies toward civilians.
   197. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: December 19, 2012 at 01:31 PM (#4328603)
Concur. Sherman was punctillious not to harm civilians. He was a very moral man. I've never read of anything even resembling a war crime perpetrated at Sherman's orders.



Southerners hated and still hate Sherman for one simple reason- he beat the living snot out of them- I saw a program awhile back where a fellow has been collecting oral histories of the Civil War- and the number of families who claim to have been personally affected by Sherman is astounding, you know they were told by Gramps who was told by his Gramps that Sherman burned down the family farm type of thing... the trouble is that when he was able to track down details, where the family homestead was and when, 99% of the time the family oral "history" is simply false- the family property was no where near where Sherman was. or they didn't move into the area until after the ACW, etc etc., but generation after generation has been telling and retelling and embellishing these tales...

and folks tend to get really hostile if told they may be mistaken...

but anyway, south of Mason-Dixon Sherm has been on the receiving end of a generations long unrelenting defamation campaign- to the extent that in many quarters the mere idea that he might not have been history's worst war criminal is regarded the way Holocaust Denialism is regarded by the descendants of Shoah survivors
   198. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: December 19, 2012 at 01:52 PM (#4328623)
197, so then my idea won't fly for having Henry Louis Gates sit down with the descendents and track down whether Sherman's army destroyed the family farm or not?
   199. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: December 19, 2012 at 01:52 PM (#4328625)
but anyway, south of Mason-Dixon Sherm has been on the receiving end of a generations long unrelenting defamation campaign- to the extent that in many quarters the mere idea that he might not have been history's worst war criminal is regarded the way Holocaust Denialism is regarded by the descendants of Shoah survivors


You mean my great-granddaddy's cousin's brother's best friend's sister-in-law wasn't turned into a lampshade for Ellen Sherman's parlor?
   200. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 19, 2012 at 02:24 PM (#4328673)
Just among Americans, I'd have him clearly behind Patton, and Washington. Don't know how you count Eisenhower (never actually commanded troops in battle) but he has to get some consideration. I'd also take Lee and MacArthur over Grant.


What about Pershing?
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