150 Years Later

…people are still writing songs about the Civil War.

Josephine, by Rory Lee Feek

The song is based on actual letters written by Confederate soldier J W Robison to his wife Josephine.

I am reminded of something Connie Willis said:

Because the Civil War isn’t over. Its images, dreamlike, stay with us — young boys lying face-down in cornfields and orchards, and Robert E. Lee on Traveller. And Lincoln, dead in the White House, and the sound of crying.

The Civil War disturbs us, all these long years after, troubling our sleep. Like a cry for help, like a warning, like a dream. And we pore over it, trying to break the code, its meaning just out of reach.

47 thoughts on “150 Years Later”

  1. Too bad that the idiot Tony Kushner inflicted his version of Lincoln on us. I saw the movie and am a big fan of Daniel Day Lewis. I don’t recommend it. See “Last of the Mohicans” or “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” instead.

  2. How true Sgt. And while the revisionists want to say that if was fought over slavery, it was fought over a state’s right to leave the union. And where in the Constitution does it say anything about the issue?

  3. “it was fought over a state’s right to leave the union”

    Oversimplified. Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, explicitly stated in March 1861 that the Confederacy was founded on the inequality of the races and the “natural condition” of enslavement for the black man. Link.

    The Confederacy was largely about preserving and extending in America the European aristocratic vision of life, with both its strengths (and there were some) and its weaknesses. It was not compatible with industrialization or with a broad and affluent middle class.

    I saw a comment by a pre-civil-war plantation owner in which he was explaining the superiority of his way of life to that of a northern businessman, a factory owner IIRC. He said disapprovingly that the businessman had to be courteous to a wide range of people in order to do business with them, whereas he himself didn’t have to be nice to anyone unless he wanted to be nice to them.

  4. “Oversimplified. ”

    On the contrary, you are over-complicating things by moving down to a lower lever of rationalization. The moral objectionableness of slavery (or any other cultural behavior) is moot if the states right of self governance holds.

  5. “The moral objectionableness of slavery (or any other cultural behavior) is moot if the states right of self governance holds.”

    That sounds like both collectivism and cultural relativism.

  6. The key to the source of the civil war is in Lincoln’s House Divided speech.

    In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

    “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

    I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

    I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

    It will become all one thing or all the other.

    Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

    Without the Dred Scott decision, the crisis might have been delayed or avoided but, once that decision was rendered, the South was on the offensive. Free blacks in the North, and there were quite a few, were at risk of enslavement. There were actually free blacks in the South, and some owned slaves, but this fact has disappeared from history. They seemed to be tolerated as they posed no threat to the system.

    The South was the aggressor in that it sought to impose slavery on the North and even fired on the Union at Fort Sumter. Advocates of the South had been moving Union owned supplies by concealed transfers. The southern states were certain they would win any military struggle.

    What would have happened if the South had not attacked ?

  7. Good comments – but didn’t Lincoln also say that if he could preserve the Union and keep slavery he could? Unfortunately I have to be across town in 23 minutes but will return ;-)

    On Ft Sumter – I think a clash was inevitable sooner or later – like Concord.

  8. “The moral objectionableness of slavery (or any other cultural behavior) is moot if the states right of self governance holds.”

    That sounds like both collectivism and cultural relativism.

    DF, I don’t see the collectivism, you could explain that if you like. I think I see what you’re getting about re. “cultural relativism” but that’s a dodge, it seems to me. Remember it was the Northern contingency that changed it’s outlook re. bondage in the 100 years before and adopted the moral high ground, somewhat hypocritically (after it’s economy no longer required slaves) and only when it suited propagandistic-war purposes.

    It’s a dodge since it evades the main point that the South was not legally constrained from seperation.

  9. I still wonder what would have happened if the South had avoided the confrontation. Lincoln was committed to the Union but, without the provocation of Fort Sumter, would the volunteers have rallied to the cause ? Look at the “phony war” in 1939-40. Would the North have attacked ? The South was the war-like section. The North was much more interested in commerce and other peaceful pursuits. England had abolished slavery in 1833. The Royal Navy had interdicted slave trader ships since 1809. The South felt under siege and was contemptuous of the North as a military threat.

    There is an argument that slavery could have been ended with compensation. I don’t buy that argument.

    There are other sources suggesting that slavery would have continued for some time, possibly into modern times.

    Thomas Sowell, as usual, has an important point to make in the matter.

    Why was there racially segregated seating on public transportation in the first place? “Racism” some will say — and there was certainly plenty of racism in the South, going back for centuries. But racially segregated seating on streetcars and buses in the South did not go back for centuries.

    Far from existing from time immemorial, as many have assumed, racially segregated seating in public transportation began in the South in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Those who see government as the solution to social problems may be surprised to learn that it was government which created this problem. Many, if not most, municipal transit systems were privately owned in the 19th century and the private owners of these systems had no incentive to segregate the races.

    The Progressive era provided us with Woodrow Wilson, who segregated the Civil Service, and government monopolies which could ignore economics to impose ideology. Would an independent Confederacy have chosen to abolish slavery ? Or would ideology overcome economic sense? We certainly cannot prove the matter with recent history and a president who will raise capital gains tax rates for “fairness” even if it loses money for the government.

  10. Mike K
    There are other sources suggesting that slavery would have continued for some time, possibly into modern times.

    Another support of that point of view is that cotton harvesting didn’t become mechanized until after World War II.

  11. Mike K….doubt that slavery could have been ended via compensation. My take is that there were too many people in leadership roles in the South who viewed a capitalist, money-based economy as a bad thing in comparison to what was in essence a feudal system.

    Tyouth…collectivist because the (moral) defense of slavery on grounds of states rights implies that the right of a collectivity, specifically at the state level, trumps in a totally absolute way the rights of the individual.

  12. I think the South was too confident of its ability to force the North to accept its actions. Had they been less confident, wrongly so, they might have been successful.

    We still live an era of cotton, especially in warmer climates.

  13. In the movie Gettysburg, someone says remarks the British officer who is there as an observer how sad it is that the two parts of America are fighting each other given their common history. To which he responds:

    “Same history….different dreams”

  14. And, those who did in the past didn’t have a good enough argument, at least from our point of view. Those who argued that a state has the ability to act in any way that is not specifically prohibited (ie secession)in the constitution have a good argument.

  15. David – I remember a post (by Cass?) in Villainous Company giving the economic reasons for the succession – it was such a different viewpoint, and when presented, really was an eye opener but in trying to find it I am coming up short.

    As for slavery I had read years ago that economically it was proving less and less viable – particularly with the industrial revolution continuing – but I have no links to buttress this claim.

    It was of course a defining moment – when citizens showed loyalty to their state as much as the union, which was really a voluntary confederacy. Look at R E Lee, who chose to side with Virginia when offered leadership of the Union Army. I don’t believe he was truly motivated by his ownership of slaves – or not.

    As for Ft Sumter, IMO a confrontation was inevitable since the 1850s – brewing. It was just when and where.

  16. “Mike K…”Had they been less confident, wrongly so, they might have been successful.”

    Don’t understand…could you explicate?”

    I didn’t state that well. The South was too confident and had they been more realistic, they might have done better.

    By the way, the commander at Fort Sumter was the medical officer as the commander was absent at the time. He later resigned his medical commission and became a regular officer and rose to general.

    I had a copy of an interesting book, For Want of a Nail, an alternate history of the US. I like this genre in literature and have another about World War II, Rising Sun Victorious about a triumphant Japan.

    Anyway, the first supposes what a victorious Confederacy might have done. Interesting to speculate.

    The preview function has already done me several favors. Thank you, Jonathan.

  17. Bill B….”As for slavery I had read years ago that economically it was proving less and less viable – particularly with the industrial revolution continuing – but I have no links to buttress this claim.”

    GE’s great scientist of the early 1900s, Charles Steinmetz, was once approach by a PR man desperately needing an idea. The PR guy had gotten his job based on his assertion that he’d get the company a lot of press coverage. Now, he was supposed to put together a press release on the sale of a new turbine-generator to some utility…and he had no ideas for an angle likely to get more attention than a small item on the back pages of the business section…and was afraid of losing his job. Could Dr Steinmetz help?

    Steinmetz whipped out his slide rule and quickly calculated that this one rotating machine would generate more energy than the entire slave population of the US at the time of the Civil War.

    A vivid image, and I believe it did get the press attention desired…a little misleading, though, because slaves were not providing only muscular energy, but also hand-eye coordination and in some jobs a considerable amount of intelligent thought. A steam turbine could not pick cotton, let alone participate in building a house or a boat.

    Stenimetz’s comparison does help show, however, the relationship between mechanical energy and the ability to structure a society without a large underclass.

  18. I think I’ve recounted this story here before, but a friend of mine, late in his career as an obstetrician, took a job at the U of Alabama. He was to run the OB clinic at Tuscaloosa. The rest of the University hospital is in Birmingham.

    While there, he met another professor whose family had owned a large plantation nearby, and, before the Civil War, a lot of slaves. They had shipped bales of cotton to New Orleans from a loading site on the river nearby. The river at that location had high banks and the bales were pushed over the edge to fall to the landing below. They didn’t use slaves to catch the bales below and load them. They were too valuable. They used Irishmen.

  19. Mike K – that reminds me of a line in Blazing Saddles when the townspeople are trying to build a new fake town.

    OK, we’ll allow the XXXX and the XXXXs, but no Irish!

  20. David – Mike – I always like to speculate on alternative history – for the fun of it – always futile of course, but it would have been interesting to see this country had the South not attacked at Dt Sumter, Lincoln had lost the election, or Lee had won at Gettysburg.

  21. Yes, few realize how close Midway and even Normandy were. If Wade McClusky had turned the other way, perhaps Japan would have been able to get a stalemate. That was their aim. Eisenhower was pessimistic about Normandy. If Hitler hadn’t slept late, for example.

    What if Hapoleon hadn’t had opium for his painful hemorrhoids the night before Waterloo and slept late ?

  22. Mike – that would be a great thread – momentous historical events that balanced on a thin line – I have mentioned the mistaken bomb jettisoning (due to bad weather) an errant Luftwaffe navigator gave his squadron captain dropping them on London instead of the English countryside – changing the whole focus of the air war during the Battle of Britain.

    ,…and, if Lee had listened to Longstreet.

    I think the Confederacy was doomed because despite having the better generals (overall) they didn’t have the manufacturing. The best they could hope for was stalemate.

  23. Lee has an exaggerated reputation. Jackson was a major lieutenant as was Longstreet but Sherman was their superior by 1865. Joe Johnston was dismissed by Davis because he was forced into repeated retreats by Sherman’s maneuver warfare. The result was the destruction of Hood’s army by Thomas and no interference with Sherman’s march.

    Johnston was a pallbearer at Sherman’s funeral and, when remonstrated for exposing himself to the elements in his advanced age and poor health, he replied, “Sherman would have done it for me.” Johnston did not recover from his exposure and died soon after. They were two gentlemen who recognized each other’s quality. They were also the best generals of their respective sides.

    Grant was the George Marshall of the Civil War. He kept his cool and saw that the Union armies had what they needed. He was profligate with the lives of his men but he did not recoil when thwarted. He advanced inexorably. Sherman was his sword. Had Eisenhower and Patton had a similar relationship, the casualties after Normandy would have been reduced by a third.

    Everyone who knew Sherman held him in highest regard, including the parents who entreated him to stay as superintendent of the school he ran in New Orleans, in spite of his open Union sympathies. He wavered for a moment after Shiloh but here Grant steadied him. Sherman said to Grant the evening after the first day, “We’ve had the devil’s own time today.” Grant replied, “Yup. Lick ’em tomorrow, though.” Grant had absolute trust in Sherman when he went east to command the Army of the Potomac.

    The European observers who spent the war with Lee’s army would have done better to spend it with Sherman. They learned the tactics of World War I with Lee. Sherman’s tactics would be used in World War II. His men loved him and called him “Uncle Billy.” They appreciated his care with their lives.

  24. Another good alternate history is the Gettysburg Trilogy, which includes Newt Gingrich among its co-authors. A Confederate victory at Gettysburg is followed by Grant coming east to command the army. Grant doesn’t lose in this alternate history, either. Harry Turtledove wrote a slew of alternate history books based on the South winning the Civil War.

    Alternate history: had the South known what would have occurred, it probably would have accepted financial compensation for freeing the slaves. But the problem with this alternate history is that the South seceded in order to make sure that slavery would remain.

    My family tree includes both a Confederate colonel who was the son of a slaveholder and one of John Brown’s cohort at Harper’s Ferry- both of whom lost their lives. Given the divisions in the country, I doubt the Civil War could have been avoided.

  25. Mike – on my “to read” list is Grant’s memoirs he was apparently near bankruptcy and writing this near the end of his life saved his family. Right next to this book on my “to read” shelf are Sherman’s

    It was amazing the waste that Lincoln’s generals caused before finally getting Grant – and I guess Meade could have ended the War by chasing a retreating Lee at Gettysburg – 2 years early – but historical speculation is…just that

  26. Remember that Grant made Meade commander of the Army of the Potomac and left him there through the end of the war. Hooker was another army commander under Grant.

    Grant’s Memoirs are good. I read them in college. Sherman’s are also good but Liddell Hart’s biography of Sherman is superior. Hart called him “the first modern American general.”

    Patton and Sherman are alike in many ways. Sherman, whose brother was a Senator, was actually related to Patton. There is a family portrait with both of them included.

  27. Mike – interesting analogy of Paton and Sherman – and one that I hadn’t considered – and so true.

    Interesting to me about the Civil War – as far as tactics it was the end of the old tactics and the image of things to come. The injuries were horrible – I am not sure if the rifles had rifled barrels – but the distances were greatly expanded and because of the weight of that bullet – usually a good portion of the bone was just disintegrated – requiring amputations.

    I had read a book on the history of snipers – and thought it would be a dry, scholarly dissertation going back to the 1600s – but found it fascinating. The Civil War was the first war that had special units of specially-picked sharpshooters with special weapons.

    Old tactics – like Pickett’ s Charge – and new ones – like telegraphs and observation balloons.

  28. The casualties of the Civil War were greatly aggravated by the Minie’ ball, which was invented by a French officer. It was the machine gun of the mid-century. Before, in Napoleonic wars, for example, the smooth bore musket was inaccurate at over 100 yards. Infantry could walk within 50 yards of the other line and risk little. The Minie’ ball had a skirt that engaged the rifling of the barrel when fired but could still be loaded from the muzzle.

    The tactics of Napoleon were used and were lethal to the users of them. Even so, most deaths were still from disease until World War I.

    The amputation was the only treatment for compound fractures until 1870 and the French, who ignored Lister and antisepsis, had a mortality rate of 70% from limb wounds in the Franco-Prussian War. Gut wounds were untreatable until late in World War I. Still, by 1864, survival was equal to World War I.

    I have a lecture on Civil War medicine that I give once in a while.

  29. Speaking of Lee – I’ve always found it curiously that Grant acquired a reputation as a butcher, when Lee was the one with the massive butcher’s bill for the war. Lee’s tactical brilliance was in a way a strategic trap. Civil war weapons made a decisive field victory pretty much impossible (rifles made cavalry pursuit impossible, so even when beaten armies were always able to withdraw. At least until the very end of the war, when the Confederate armies finally just collapsed from lack of supplies and manpower). As a result, Lee’s constant tactical aggression spent the South’s limited manpower in a fruitless quest for a decisive victory. The constant attrition meant the constant diversion of Southern manpower to the East, even while the war itself was being lost in the West.

  30. “Civil war weapons made a decisive field victory pretty much impossible (rifles made cavalry pursuit impossible, so even when beaten armies were always able to withdraw.”

    Good comment. The great strategic failure was the decision by the Union army to not use repeating rifles, which were available and some were purchased with private funds. Had the Union army done so, the power of the Henry or Spencer rifle would have been decisive and the Confederacy did not have the industry to make the metal cartridges needed for the weapons. As it was, the South armed itself with muzzle loaders recovered from the battlefield.

    The armies got no wiser in WWI as the west turned down Maxim’s machine gun, which made the German lines almost impenetrable. The US army even refused to use the BAR, which was available for WWI, for fear the Germans would learn about it ! Instead, they sued the inferior Chauchat.

    Over time, its just passable performance in the 8mm Lebel version ( the Mle 1915 ) and the failure of its version manufactured in U.S. 30-06 ( the Mle 1918 ), have led many modern experts to assess the Chauchat machine rifle as the “worst machine gun” ever fielded in the history of warfare.[1][2][3]

  31. phwest Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 9:00 am

    As a result, Lee’s constant tactical aggression spent the South’s limited manpower in a fruitless quest for a decisive victory.

    As an amateur historian, and a living history re-enactor who does Civil War [Confederate usually, but will help my Yankee colleagues who need help, especially with artillery (being a trained cannoneer)] presentations for schools, I have studied the war a bit. I will grant that the South was bled dry of manpower and resources, and throughout lacked the logistics for a prolonged war.

    But the political and strategic nature of the war did not permit an overall strategic offensive policy for the South, and remaining solely on the tactical defensive would have meant defeat in detail early on.

    The South never had an intention of conquering the North. Stealing away Northern states was counter to their entire goal. They only wanted to be left alone to go their own way. To do that, it was necessary to make it apparent that the cost of forcing the Confederate States back into the Federal Union would be more than it was worth to the North.

    This is not to say that there was not a Southern conception of Manifest Destiny and a desire for a Southern outlet on the Pacific; however it was ill formed, and never a particularly realistic aim. Taking part of the basically empty territories that later made up New Mexico and Arizona, plus the Mexican state of Sonora along with Baja California was the dream. It was not a realizable one.

    That said, a war of aggressive maneuver was about all they had. The South made a number of mistakes. These were more than balanced by the failures of command by the North, which prolonged the war by years.

    The South was in a no-win political situation before the war. The issue of slavery was real, but it was also being used as a stalking horse to cover deeper issues of politics and finances. Keep in mind that prior to the Civil War, the main source of revenue for the Federal government was import duties and they were paid disproportionately by the South, comprising up to 75% of Federal tax receipts. The arguments over slave –v- free states was also a proxy for voting supremacy in Congress to determine how those revenues would be allocated. The “Free State” majority also was a majority for appropriations and pork.

    From the point of view of the South, the election of 1860 meant nothing less than subjugation forever. Yes, Lincoln was a Republican, and the Republicans hated the South. But more important was the makeup of the new Congress.

    The Democrats of the time were the party of secession and slavery, being based in the South. It is noteworthy that it was the united Republicans and North East Democrats in the 1960’s that defeated the Southern Democrats to pass the Civil Rights Acts and end segregation.

    But the public uproar over slavery in 1860 resulted in a complete Republican sweep of Congress.

    The Republicans + the allied Unionist and Constitutional Unionist parties had 75.4% of the House. The Democrats had 24.6%. In the House, the Republicans could ignore the Democrats and pass anything that they wanted.

    The Republicans + the allied Unionist and “Unconditional Unionist” parties had 74% of the Senate. The Democrats had 26%. Only Senatorial Courtesy would allow the Democrats to have any input at all, and tempers were high over the slavery issue.

    Facing a government that had literally no restraints on its actions against the South, their only choice was submission or secession and the resulting war. If they would not have seceded, they would have been subjected to a legislative version of Reconstruction, with the threat of military force to back it.

    There are interesting parallels today. Right now, the Left does as it pleases with no checks and balances. There has been no constitutional budget for years, and no prospect of one. The supposed Opposition party is sufficiently goolie-less and gormless as to might as well not be there; and significant portions of its leadership are functionally collaborating with the Left. The current Leftist administration ignores and does not fear any legal or constitutional restraints, and is additionally operating an administrative and regulatory state that can and does crush opposition in ways that Kafka would find excessive.

    Supporters of the Constitution today are in the same contemporary version of the “Kobayashi Maru” scenario that the South was after the 1860 elections. It may be that the only remaining choices are submission or going outside the box.

  32. “They only wanted to be left alone to go their own way. To do that, it was necessary to make it apparent that the cost of forcing the Confederate States back into the Federal Union would be more than it was worth to the North.”

    I think this was a reasonable goal but they began with an attack on northern (Union) facilities. I will concede that Charleston harbor was subject to blockade from Fort Sumter. Still, they were overconfident of their military prowess, just as Hitler was with the USSR in 1941. Both had some justification. What if they had simply announced secession and defied the Union to stop them ?

    Lee was not seeking an encounter battle at Gettysburg. All he wanted was shoes for his men. He was lured into the great battle, at least in part, by his own passion. He is the one who said, “It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” Longstreet disagreed with Lee and was slow bringing up his men for what he considered an ill-advised attack. He spent the rest of his life defending that decision.

    If Lee had had his cavalry before Gettysburg, he might have avoided battle. JEB Stuart was off on some footling errand and missed the battle.

    The Fugitive Slave Act and Roger Taney made the war inevitable.

  33. Politics:
    A significant factor in the 1860 elections was fragmentation of Democrats into northern and southern factions – who ran different candidates, and in the process may have helped lose border states (including some later Confederate stalwarts like Virginia) to a third party (the Constitutional Unionist party).

    A partial parallel today may be fractioning of R’s into oligarch, tea-party, and libertarian wings, with much strength diverted in 2012 election into Libertarian candidates. Dissatisfaction with the Oligarch (establishment) wing and its candidate caused many voters to feel the election meant nothing and not vote or contribute.

    Before secession, Senate 29:23:1 – enough to block major stuff given the Filibuster Rule, House was a little heavier R, but schisms did fraction the House: 108:44:30:1
    (after secession set in, the numbers grew far more lopsided)

    Had the D’s not split, they might have held a little more power, might have united to defeat R’s in some other northern States, and delayed the civil war to 1865….

    Weapons — it was a time of experimentation and change….
    YES – a majority of civil war weapons did have rifled barrels, 58-cal Minnies from an 1861 Springfield can reliably hit man-sized targets at several hundred yards, if one can see that target–and those are heavy enough to do real damage to people.
    Some units still had smoothbores, even Union troops requisitioned 69-cal “buch and ball” loads as late as 1865.
    Rimfire cartridges were known, but — even though Lincoln liked them and encouraged adoption — resistance by the “troops have no fire discipline and will shoot themselves dry” crowd led to much less use of Volcanic (later Winchester), 52-cal Spencer, Smith & Wesson (22 short) than could have happened. Separate-ignition brass cartridges like Ambrose Burnside’s carbine (a cap fired through a touch-hole into the cartridge, which then obturated the main portion of the breech) were known and used to an extent.
    Much use was made of separate-ignition paper cartridges, including the Sharps breechloaders.
    Centerfire cartridges were little used–although while I write I’m looking at a US model of 1866 in 50-70 Govt. centerfire, made postwar by sleeving an 1863 rifle and adding a trapdoor breech, as shown by lock and breechplug dates.

    Battlefields were often dominated by smoke as smokeless rounds were yet unheard of.

  34. Subotai Badahur…”prior to the Civil War, the main source of revenue for the Federal government was import duties and they were paid disproportionately by the South”

    Why was this? The first thing that comes to mind is that the South had little industry, so therefore was import-dependent. But they could have imported most of the same products from the North, and avoided the duties. I wouldn’t think that most of these imported products were so bulky that ocean freight would have had a major advantage over rail…for that matter, there was such a thing as coastal shipping.

    Why buy your plows (let’s say) from Britain when you could get them from New England and avoid the tariff?

  35. “Why buy your plows (let’s say) from Britain when you could get them from New England and avoid the tariff?”

    This is speculation by me but there may have some level of barter arrangements. Cash was not that plentiful at the time. The same could have worked with the north but it was England that was addicted to cotton.

  36. Michael Kennedy Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    I think this was a reasonable goal but they began with an attack on northern (Union) facilities. I will concede that Charleston harbor was subject to blockade from Fort Sumter.

    To be honest, from the moment of secession, absent the Federal government granting the secession; the moment of firing on the US flag was pre-ordained. If not at Fort Sumpter, then elsewhere. But with Charleston being a major port of the new Confederacy, the existence of a hostile fort capable of blocking all trade could not be tolerated. But somewhere, there would be an encounter between the forces of the United States, and the forces of the Confederate States; either along the border, or at sea. And it would have been on.

    Lee was not seeking an encounter battle at Gettysburg. All he wanted was shoes for his men.

    Agreed that Lee was not looking for that particular battle, he was hoping to defeat the Union army in detail. But the story about the shoes came from a lower level. The rumor that there was a warehouse of shoes at Gettysburg was mentioned in the report of General Henry Heth of A.P. Hill’s Corps. And it has taken a life of its own.

    I also agree that J.E.B. Stuart’s haring off into the blue was a huge reason for the Confederate defeat. Leaving the whole of your army blind in enemy territory is unforgivable. If Lee had known what he was getting into, he may have not either engaged the entire army at that time and place, or not made the fatal error on the third day. And to be honest, if Lee would have followed Longstreet’s advice and drawn the Union out of their prepared positions by feinting towards DC, things may have been very different.

    And yes, history has a long fuse. Events long before the Civil War made it inevitable. One wonders how many fuses are burning now.

  37. David Foster Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    But they could have imported most of the same products from the North, and avoided the duties.

    It is a matter of the nature of trade at the time. First, the market for the South’s prime crops, cotton and tobacco, was in Europe. They would pay far more, and had a higher demand for the product, than the North ever would. So the South sold to Europe. That meant they were paid in Europe. Today, I can order anything I want online direct from China and pay for it instantaneously with a debit card. In those days, it was either specie or letters of credit drawn on a British or French bank. Which meant that the money was over there, and had to be spent over there. You could insure goods against loss while shipping across the Atlantic. Somewhat more difficult to do so for specie. And the letters of credit on a bank in Britain did not do much good in Charleston in those days.

    In short, they could not buy their goods from New England, if all their customers [and money] were half a world away. If the credit system was developed enough to do that, it might have kept much of the sectionalism from developing. Or if we had a tax system that hit more than one part of the country.

    Mind you, if the South were spending the money in the North, it would have driven Brit and French Mercantilists crazy.

  38. One must remember that world finance was driven from London, the New York market were still small and undeveloped. Bank wires did not exist — transatlantic telegraph did not open until after the war began and then had a fortunate hiatus that helped keep England out the war by allowing tempers to cool at just the right time (England sent troops to Canada anyway). Paper drafts were used, but without modern clearinghouses. Banks (with Bank of England an exception) were small, with few branches and those all near the main office. Even international mail was crude–the prepaid postage stamp had only been introduced in the 1840’s.

    With England buying huge percentages of the cotton crop, it was much faster to send an order for everything from lace to pianos and chandeliers, even locomotives, on the same boat than to direct a transfer to New York, and then send an order. Many planters had accounts there.


    The war became inevitable on 1/9/61, 3 months before “First battle of Ft. Sumter” when the “Start of the West”, a supply steamer, was driven away from a resupply mission by cadets from The Citadel…..

  39. fuses burning now – to name a few
    1. A government that seems doomed to go the way of Germany 1923 or Zimbabwe 2008 by failing to even think of controlling spending
    2. Growing rural-city division where big city D’s feel empowered to dictate to the countryside, ignoring the constitution wherever inconvenient
    3. Establishment of atheism, with a taste of islam, as the state religion
    4. Fractured opposition that permits D’s to get away with whatever they want–including what is being seen as stealing elections by box stuffing, fake registration, and other fraud.
    5. Abandonment of logical thinking in favor of emotion as the ruling principle
    6. Tax policy that favors some over others (note the role that taxes played in the divisions that led to both the Revolution and the Civil War)
    7. Expansion of government control is ways that are arousing ire among citizens used to having some political freedom

  40. Isn’t this a lot more fun than thinking about Obama ?

    My point was about the trade balance as you both stated better than I did.

    Buford has not gotten enough credit for his role in stopping Lee the first day at Gettysburg. Sam Elliot is one of my favorite actors and did a great job with the role in the 1993 movie. Martin Sheen was hopeless as Lee.

    I read just about everything I could find on the Civil War when I was in college. I have had a few fortunate opportunities to walk the battlefields. I even read an account of Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862. Had he lived, shot by his own men, Lee might have won. It took Lincoln a long time to find Grant.

  41. Michael Kennedy Says:
    February 18th, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Isn’t this a lot more fun than thinking about Obama ?

    Last post, because I am monopolizing the conversation.

    Sad to say, while I enjoy talking about history; anyone who is watching the current incarnation of interesting times cannot avoid thinking about Obama and today’s events when reviewing either 1775 or 1860-61.

    “And only the Great Blue Sky Tengri Nor knows what the outcome will be.”

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