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Oct 13, 2018 - Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Southern Culture Laid Bare, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Achieving the Supposed Impossible

Achieving the Supposed Impossible

The “Bloody Angle” at the battle of Spottsylvania on May 12, 1864 was a severe test of Lee’s men against the overwhelming forces of Grant – the latter mounting successive attacks in his war of attrition against Lee’s army. In two weeks of fighting since the start of the Wilderness battles, Grant had already lost 32,000 men to battle as well as 20,000 who reached the end of their enlistments. But more foreign and bounty-enriched recruits would replenish his ranks; despite the continuing heroism of his troops, Lee’s losses were near impossible to repair.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Achieving the Supposed Impossible

“In his extended and penetrating study “Grant’s Campaign of 1864-1865,” (page 285), Major [Charles F.] Atkinson [of the British Army] says truly of the angle:

“The battle is indescribable except by catalog of those deeds of individual heroism that happened to be noted and to be remembered in quieter hours . . . The problem is how to account for Lee’s success and Meade’s failure.” He ascribes it, of course, to “the success of Lee’s men in keeping the battle within the breastworks and to the actual combat of the fight. Lee’s exact knowledge of the tensile strength of his material enabled him to use them to the best possible advantage in succession.”

Comparing their successive hand-to-hand contests with the battles in Greek and Roman warfare, he discusses the psychology of their endurance, the hero’s instinct to fight it out, and the will to win.

He concludes: “All this however does not account for the devotion of the actual combatants. The conditions at the point of contact were certainly such as no man could have endured for long.” He did not know that the South Carolina brigade fought continuously at the point of contact for eighteen hours – achieving the supposed impossible.

Generals Grant, Meade and Wright endeavored all day to reenter the Salient at that “vulnerable” west angle. By defeating them there, Harris’ Mississippi and McGowan’s South Carolina brigades defeated their purpose for the whole battle.

With Lee’s infantry and artillery manning it, the new line was practically impregnable to the Federals. General Barlow, whose division a week later, again led in assault, wrote “On th 18th [of May] we assaulted their second line without success.” This was at 4AM and was a carefully planned combined assault by Hancock’s Second Corps, strengthened by eight thousand fresh troops from Washington.

Wright, Burnside and Warren were to cooperate, but did not attack because the heavy artillery and musketry fire soon drove back Hancok’s troops. “Thus ended the last concerted effort to break up the Confederate lines of defense at Spottsylvania.”

The soldiers who, by their long death struggle made the building of Lee’s new line of breastworks possible, were the South Carolinians who “held the key to the Confederate arch” through the great day of battle – or who died there. There they left their dead and the many wounded unto death. They had not failed. The sacrifice of the heroes in the Bloody Angle line was necessary to save the lives of many others.

General Lee telegraphed to Richmond that after the losses at daybreak “thanks to a merciful Providence our subsequent casualties were not large” – that is, in the army as a whole. At the Bloody Angle, the Mississippi and South Carolina brigades each lost about half their numbers. [The losses elsewhere] would have been great if the soldiers holding the apex-line at the Angle had given way before the new intrenchments were ready.

Upon one brigade depended the fate of the army more than is usual even in battle. They died there that they might save their army. Facing almost certain death, it seemed, for eighteen hours, they and their brigade kept the vastly greater numbers of the enemy who were assaulting them from breaking through to the heart of Lee’s army . . . By their suffering and death many thousands of their comrades were saved.”

(A Colonel at Spottsylvania: The Life and Character of Colonel Joseph Newton Brown, The Battle at Spottsylvania, May 12, 1864, Varina D. Brown, The State Company, 1931, excerpts pp. 300-302)

“It Was Lincoln Who Made War”

The author quoted below, US Navy Captain and Virginia-native Russell Quynn, was a veteran of both World Wars and a member of the Virginia bar since 1941. He writes that against the North, “the armies of the South at peak strength never exceeded 700,000 men,” and that “imported “Hessians” were used “by Lincoln to crush Americans of the South whose fathers had served in the armies of Washington, Jackson, Taylor, to make the nation, to found its renown.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

“It Was Lincoln Who Made War”

“Jefferson Davis, with his family, was captured in the Georgia pines on May 10, 1865, while en route to the Trans Mississippi, where he had hoped forces were still intact to continue the struggle Johnston and Beauregard had given up to Sherman at Durham, North Carolina . . . The odds now were ten to one; the North was being armed with Spencer-magazine repeating rifles, against the Confederates muzzle-loaders, to turn the war into mass murder.

During the four years of war the Northern armies had been replenished with large-scale inductions of more than 720,000 immigrant males from Europe; who were promised bounties and pensions that the South afterwards largely had to pay (see the Union Department of War records).

Charged with detestable crimes that, it was only too well known, he could not be guilty of, Davis was unable to obtain a hearing, and finally was released. A bail bond of $100,000 had been posted for him, oddly enough, by some of the men who had been his bitterest enemies – Horace Greeley, Gerrit Smith, Vanderbilt, and others among the twenty men who pledged $5,000 each in federal court.

Davis himself thought that “. . . by reiteration of such inappropriate terms as “rebellion” and treason,” and the asseveration that the South was levying war against the United States, those ignorant of the nature of the Union, and of the reserved powers of the States, have been led to believe that the Confederate States were in the condition of revolted provinces, and that the United States were forced to resort to arms for the preservation of their existence . . . The Union was formed for specific enumerated purposes, and the States had never surrendered their sovereignty . . . It was a palpable absurdity to apply to them, or to their citizens when obeying their mandates, the terms “rebellion” and “treason”; and, further, the Confederacy, so far from making war or seeking to destroy the United States, as soon as they had an official organ, strove earnestly by peaceful recognition, to equitably adjust all questions growing out of the separation from their late associates.”

It was Lincoln who “made war.” Still another perversion, Davis thought, “was the attempted arraignment of the men who formed the Confederacy, and who bore arms in its defense, as “instigators of a controversy leading to disunion.” Of course, it was a palpable absurdity, and but part of the unholy vengeance, which did not cease at the grave.”

(The Constitutions of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis: A Historical and Biographical Study in Contrasts, Russell H. Quynn, Exposition Press, 1959, excerpts pp. 126-128)

Awful Sacrifices and Doomed Assaults

Northern General George Meade knew the futility of massed charges of men against a strongly entrenched opponent, the latter was his position at Gettysburg versus Lee. Though Meade was characterized as “failed, maladroit and weak-willed,” his subordinates praised their superior’s courage in ordering withdrawals in the face of strong Southern positions. They were painfully aware that “Meade had only snap his fingers” and there would have been “ten thousand wretched, mangled creatures” lying on the valley slopes. By the end of 1863, “courage” to some had become the will to renounce the charge; Lincoln and the Radicals desired relentless assaults and mass-carnage.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Awful Sacrifices and Doomed Assaults

“Even before the assault at Cold Harbor, [Northern] soldiers entering their fourth year of war understood perfectly what the result would be. They knew that the Confederates had had thirty-six hours in which to prepare their positions and that by that stage of the war any attack under such circumstances was doomed.

Charles Wainwright thought it absurd that Grant should simply repeat here the order “which has been given at all such times on this campaign, viz: “to attack along the whole line.”

On the eve of battle, Union soldiers who had glimpsed some part of the Southern defenses or heard them described by the “news-gatherers” were, Wilkinson reported, depressed: “Some of the men were sad, some indifferent; some so tired of the strain on their nerves that they wished they were dead and their troubles over . . . and though they had resolved to do their best, there was no eagerness for the fray, and the impression among the intelligent soldiers was that the task cut out for them was more than men could accomplish.”

Indeed, numbers of soldiers wrote their names on small pieces of paper and pinned them to their coats, in a hope, signaling hopelessness, that their bodies would not go unidentified.

On June 15, 1864, when Grant’s army finally reached the James [River] at a cost of 60,000 casualties, a number equivalent to the size of Lee’s army at the outset of the campaign, the Union regular Augustus Meyers felt the “gloomy and depressing effect” of such “awful sacrifices without any advantages.”

When the Twenty-seventh Maine’s tour of duty was about to expire just prior to the battle of Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln authorized the award of the Medal of Honor to each soldier who would reenlist. Three hundred agreed to remain on duty as “emergency troops,” but medals were issued in error to all 864 members of the regiment. The Twenty-seventh Maine had seen no battle before Gettysburg; its remnant played no role at Gettysburg.

Similarly, so many brevet (i.e., honorary) promotions were awarded, Augustus Meyers complained, that they “seemed to lose dignity” and became objects of ridicule. His friends in the ranks began to refer to mules as “brevet horses” and to camp followers as “brevet soldiers.” Such awards, moreover, seemed seldom to recognize battlefield bravery.

On November 28, Meade probed Lee’s position [at Mine Run] and prepared for a large-scale assault. Meanwhile, Federal rank and file had an opportunity to judge for themselves the strength of the defense. “All felt it would be madness to assault,” Robert Carter of the Twenty-second Massachusetts said. “I felt death in my very bones all day.” George Bicknell of the Fifth Maine wrote that there was not “a man in our command who did not realize his position. Not one who . . . did not see the letters [of] death before his vision . . . [N]ever before nor since had such a universal fate seemed to hang over a command.

[Meade] canceled the assault and on December 1 ordered his army back across the Rapidan, a retreat into winter quarters.”

(Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War, Gerald F. Linderman, The Free Press, 1987, excerpts, pp. 161; 163-164)

Un-American Union of Force

The party of Seward and Lincoln fielded its first presidential candidate in 1854; in the space of another seven years this party succeeded in alienating nearly half the country, waged bloody war in Kansas, forced a State to peacefully withdraw from the Union, and plunged the country into a bloody and destructive war that led to the deaths of a million people.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Un-American Union of Force

“Finally, a new party was formed, with its primary object, as professed, the exclusion of the South from the common territories that had been acquired by the common blood and the common treasure of the South and the North.

And, significantly, early in its history, or as soon (1860) as it had acquired material growth and substantial prestige, this new political party, already thus avowedly sectional in its principles, made a sectional “protective” tariff one of its demands.

And when it had elected a president (by a sectional and a minority popular vote, be it remembered), and so caused a disruption of the union of States, “protection” was a primary means employed to support the war that followed – a war of aggression and conquest waged by this party to secure both its own continued supremacy and the new consolidated and un-American union of force in place of the pristine confederated union of choice which itself had had done so much to destroy; a war in which Negro emancipation “in parts of the Southern States” was incidentally proclaimed as a “military measure,” the thirteenth amendment coming later to extend and validate this unconstitutional proceeding.

“Un-American union of force,” I said; we must remember that widespread opposition to the war of conquest against the South manifested itself in the North, and that the myriads of immigrants from centralist, “blood and iron” Germany had much to do with turning the scale in the North in support of Lincoln’s and Seward’s war.

In these aliens there had arisen “a new king which knew not Joseph,” who had no inconvenient recollections of ’76 to hold him in check.”

(Living Confederate Principles, Lloyd T. Everett, Southern Historical Society Papers, No. II, Volume XL, September 1915; Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1991, excerpts pp. 22-23)

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

During the 1876 gubernatorial campaign to rescue his State from the Radical rule of the corrupt Massachusetts-born governor, Daniel Chamberlain, Democratic candidate Wade Hampton challenged the many blacks in his audiences to advance to a new level of freedom. “You have, ever since emancipation been slaves to your political masters [of the Republican Party]. As members of the Loyal [Union] League you have been fettered slaves to a party.” Since the war’s end, Radical Republicans used the Union League to elect its candidates, suppress political opposition, and terrorize black men who sided with Democrats.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Black Democrats Jeered and Hissed in 1876

“City of Dreadful Night.” Always the words recall two nights in Charleston almost exactly ten years apart – September 1, 1886, the night after the earthquake, September 6, 1876, [the] night of the King Street riot. The riot was the worse, by far, to live through.

The riot night there was tumult and confusion of hate and fear and pistol shots, howls of wild rage, savage threats and curses, appeals of pursued and bloody men for rescue, mercy and life. The riot could have been prevented. All know that now.

It was one of the tragic incidents of the 1876 campaign and . . . it gave Charleston perhaps the most fearful night of her eventful history. The white people were overconfident. They knew unrest and anger were seething and increasing among the Negroes and were prepared to resist and suppress an outbreak; but the outbreak came before it was expected . . .

Looking back it is easy to see that the storm signals were plain. The Radical Republican leaders had noted with growing dismay and fury the slow but steady additions to the number of Negroes enrolling in Democratic [party] clubs, for one reason or another. A riotous attack had been made on the Negro club in Mount Pleasant.

The meeting of the Democratic club of Ward 8, August 31, in the old carriage factory, Spring Street near Rutledge Avenue, was invaded by a number of boisterous [Republican] Negroes who interrupted . . . [as they sought an] opportunity to injure Isaac Rivers, a huge black man and an effective speaker, working for the Democrats, and J.W. Sawyer, another colored speaker. Rivers and Sawyer were hustled, threatened and cursed, but escaped uninjured.

On the night of September 5 . . . On motion of Colonel J.D. Aiken a committee of seven was appointed charged especially with protection of colored Democrats.

[A] mob of Negroes packed the street around the entrance to the meeting place of Ward 5. The white men formed a square, with Rivers and other Negro Democrats in the middle, and marched into King Street through a roar of jeers and hisses. They were aided by police and the disturbance ended.

A meeting of the colored Democratic club of Ward 4 was held the night of the sixth at Archer’s Hall, King Street, J.B. Jenkins, vice-president, presiding. The Hunkidories and Live Oaks, Negro Radical Republican secret organizations had gathered their forces and were massed, waiting, in King Street, armed with pistols, clubs and sling shots, the last made with a pound of lead attached to a twelve-inch leather strap and providing a deadly weapon at close range.

Mr. Barnwell led the white men gallantly. They checked to mob by firing pistols just over the heads of those in the front rank . . . the police arrived at the nick of time, charged, used their clubs and were resisted fiercely. At Citadel Green the fighting became desperate . . . and several police were insensible or disabled.

A new mob of Negroes poured out of John Street, shrieking “Blood!” A black policeman named Green and J.M. Buckner, white, were shot, fell, and were drawn out of the fighting crowd with difficulty. The fifteen white men who remained on their feet struggled into the Citadel grounds and delivered the Negro Democrats, none of whom was injured.

Then the whites fled as they could and the Negro mob took the street [and] divided into gangs of fifty to one-hundred and paraded, firing pistols, defying the police, chasing and mercilessly beating every white man they could see and catch, smashing store windows, shouting threats to exterminate the white population.

The main guard house was filled with wounded white men, some of them picked up insensible and probably left for dead. Mr. Buckner was seen to be dying. Several policemen were fearfully wounded. Two reporters for the News and Courier sent to the scene of the riot were beaten, struck with stones and rescued by police only with much effort.

Panic spread fast and everywhere as people understood that war had begun on race lines and that Negroes appeared to have possession of the city. White men were compelled to stay in their homes with shivering and terror-stricken families because any white man venturing on the street alone invited death uselessly.”

(Hampton and His Red Shirts: South Carolina’s Deliverance in 1876, Alfred B. Williams, Crown Rights Books, 2001 (original 1935), excerpts pp. 119-121)

Jul 1, 2018 - Carnage, Lincoln's Grand Army, Myth of Saving the Union, Southern Heroism, Southern Patriots    Comments Off on Giving the Federal Army a Shock at Gettysburg

Giving the Federal Army a Shock at Gettysburg

In a letter to his wife from the Georgia legislature on November 16, 1860, State Senator Clement Evans (1833-1911) wrote: “There is no need of alarm when the Union dissolves. It will be a peaceful death of a decrepit old man, and the North shall take the body, and we will be the disenthralled soul.” Wound five times, twice severely, Evans commanded the Thirty-first Georgia Regiment, the Bartow Guards, which reached York, Pennsylvania, the farthest advance of any Confederate unit. His regiment was the last to leave Pennsylvania after Gettysburg.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Giving the Federal Army a Shock at Gettysburg

“[General Lee was not sure exactly what Gettysburg had meant, nor did General Meade assess the battle’s full significance. Both President Lincoln and President Davis were disappointed. In fact, nobody fully evaluated the events at the time of the [battle]. Only years later did historians, in retrospect, dub it the “high tide of the Confederacy.” However, Colonel Evans’ contemporary view of what the battle meant is scarcely to be improved upon as he closes his diary]:

“Thus ended for the time being the Pennsylvania Campaign. The success of the movement was not as great as was to be desired – Had our wishes been gratified the Yankee Army would have been demolished & Washington captured, but I doubt if either was expected – We remained in the enemy’s territory as long as it was possible to subsist the army there.

Short rations will always compel short campaigns of invasion, unless we could invade where railroad and water communications could be kept up. The general results of the last 40 days however are not at all unsatisfactory.

The Federal army of the Potomac had been forced out of Virginia – The enemy have learned to their cost what invasion is, and have one great battlefield with all its horrors on their own soil to contemplate.

We have given the Federal army a shock at Gettysburg in the loss of over 40,000 killed, wounded & prisoners from which it will not recover. We have drawn from the enemy subsistence stores for the whole army for two months. We have furnished our trains, cavalry & artillery with new & good horses – We have supplied ourselves with quite a few thousand new wagons. The capture of ordnance & ordnance stores have been abundant.

We have possession of the Valley of Virginia with its abundant crop of grain & hay – Our loss during the 40 days will reach 20,000. That of the enemy will not fall short of 60,000.”

(Intrepid Warrior, Clement Anselm Evans, Confederate General from Georgia. Life, Letters and Diaries of the War Years; Robert Grier Stephens, Jr., editor, Morningside House, Inc., 1992, excerpts pp. 238-239)

Jun 28, 2018 - Carnage, Lincoln's Blood Lust, Lincoln's Grand Army, Myth of Saving the Union, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Uncategorized    Comments Off on One Thousand a Minute Casualty Rate

One Thousand a Minute Casualty Rate

Lee had 55,000-some troops with which to oppose Grant’s invading force of 108,000 at Cold Harbor, though the latter consisted of many raw, inexperienced garrison troops unfamiliar with infantry tactics. They were nonetheless thrown into mass assaults against Lee’s entrenched veterans in suicidal assaults, and Grant’s apparent disdain for the lives of his own men was later matched by his refusal of prisoner exchanges which be believed benefited the South. This led to the death of many Northern prisoners from disease and starvation, despite President Davis’ offer of allowing food and medicine for the prisoners.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

One Thousand a Minute Casualty Rate

“Many officers and men in grey were taken by surprise at Grant’s move to interpose his forces between them and the Rebel capital. After the long and brutal contest in The Wilderness, Rebels had expected men in blue to retire for a period. Instead, here they were – apparently headed toward Spotsylvania.

This showed Grant had no intention of retreating. Furthermore, the usual pattern of actions in Washington had not been followed. That meant failure or defeat would not remove [Grant] from command. He would be expected to continue his war of attrition, regardless of losses sustained by his own forces.

Despite [concerns of Northern officers], the general advance ordered by Meade and Grant began about 4:30PM on June 2 [1864]. [General William F.] Smith castigated the movement as providing conclusive proof of the “entire absence of any military plan” among the Federal forces. Despite “a murderous fire,” men in blue managed to reach the edge of the woods, where the second line caught up with them . . . resuming their advance [but] the enemy fire was so heavy that the fell back.

Whether the decision was made by Grant or by Meade, orders soon came for a full frontal assault at 4:30 on the following morning. Smith saw the Rebel positions as being more than merely formidable . . . Generations later, [historian] Jeffrey D. Wert characterized the Rebel works at Cold Harbor in two words: “nearly impregnable.”

Impregnable or not, orders were to take the Confederate works. Diaries and letters reveal that on the night before the scheduled grand assault, large numbers of men in blue wrote their names and addresses on slips of paper and pinned them to their shirts . . . essential if bodies of the slain were to be shipped home to their relatives.

Soon afterward it became generally known that the Federal move at Cold Harbor, whose width is variously estimated at having been from one-half to six miles, lasted less than 10 minutes. During that time, men in blue became casualties at a rate of about 16 per second. Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg is far better known and may have involved more casualties. Yet no other Civil War action approached Cold Harbor in its June 3rd per-minute casualty rate of approximately one thousand men.

Smith dashed off a dispatch to Meade in which he reported the triple repulse of one body of Federals [adding that] there was no hope that they could carry the works in front of them without relief from galling Rebel fire. In reply, he received orders to move forward [and later] an oral command that he lead another assault. “That order I refused to obey,” Smith later confessed.

Because the leader of the XVIII flatly disobeyed his commander, some eight thousand men in blue – more or less – watched as their comrades were once more mowed down. In the melee of battle, it is unlikely that anyone except a handful of loyal aides knew that he had defied Meade. If his action had been known at headquarters and regulations had been followed, his disobedience would have led to a charge of mutiny.”

(Mutiny in the Civil War, Webb Garrison, White Mane Books, 2001, excerpts pp. 134; 136-139)

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

By the spring of 1864, war weariness and long casualty lists at the North were bringing hope to the possibility of peace negotiations through an emerging Northern peace party. Though several previous peace initiatives had failed due to Lincoln’s intransigence, President Jefferson Davis again sought opportunities to end the bloodshed.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Destruction and Desolation Rather than Peace

“The cause of the South could no longer be submitted, to the arbitrament of battle unaided [by foreign intervention]. The opening campaign of the spring of 1864 was deemed a favorable conjuncture for the employment of the resources of diplomacy.

To approach the Federal government directly would be in vain. Repeated efforts had already demonstrated its inflexible purpose not to negotiate with the Confederate authorities.

A commission of three gentlemen was appointed by the President to visit Canada with the aim of negotiating with such persons at the North as might be relied upon to facilitate the attainment of peace.

The Confederate commissioners, Messieurs Clay of Alabama, Holcombe of Virginia, and Thompson, of Mississippi, sailed from Wilmington, North Carolina [in April, 1864], and arrived within a few weeks on the Canadian frontier in the execution of their mission. A correspondence with Mister Horace Greeley commenced on the twelfth day of July, 1864.

Through Mister Greeley the commissioners sought a safe conduct to the Federal capital. For a few days Lincoln appeared to favor an interview with the commissioners, but finally rejected their application, on the ground that they were not authorized to treat for peace. The attempted negotiation was a failure, and peace was impossible.

In the meantime President Lincoln had called, for three years’ service, another 500,000 men to start on March 10, an additional 200,000 for March 14, and 500,000 volunteers for July 18, 1864. Mr. Lincoln’s subsequent re-election dashed all hopes in the South for a peaceful settlement.

Meanwhile the war raged without a sign of abatement. Generals Grant and Meade attacked General Lee at Wilderness, Virginia, on May 5-6, and at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia, from the 10th to the 12th of May. General Sherman attacked General J.E. Johnston’s army at Resaca on May 14; Butler attacked Beauregard at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia, on the 16th of May; Grant and Lee fought at Cold Harbor on June 3 . . . and General Sherman occupied Atlanta, Georgia, on September 2, 1864.

The South began to read its fate when it saw that the North converted warfare into universal destruction and desolation. Long before the close of winter, popular feeling assumed a phase of sullen indifference which, while yet adverse to unconditional submission to the North, manifestly despaired of ultimate success. The people viewed additional sacrifices as hopeless, and anticipated the worst.”

(Jefferson Davis, Patriot, a Biography, 1808-1865, Eric Langhein, Vantage Press, 1962, excerpts pp. 75-77)

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

Allan Ramsey was a court painter to George III as well as a published political theorist, who argued, regarding the American revolutionists, that “should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.” As he saw the inhabitants of British America as bidding defiance to the Crown and in a state of war with the King’s forces, they should expect no mercy and total war.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Lincoln’s New Frame of Mind

“We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of people, and the enslavement of the vanquished. Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible.

Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy. This requires a prior act of total criticism, which is the characteristic mark of the philosophical act.

The concept of civilized warfare is unique to Europe and lasted about two centuries, roughly from the beginning of the eighteenth century until World War I. Civilized war was to be between combatants only and could not be directed against civilians as part of a strategy for victory.

The most important part of this system consisted of the rules for ending a war and establishing and equitable peace. The vanquished were to be treated with respect. Compensation to the victor was not to be conceived as punishment but as the cost of defeat in an honorable contest of arms. The idea of demanding unconditional surrender was out of the question. Such a demand denies the nation the right to exist and so would destroy the principle of the comity of nations.

The distinguished military historian B.H. Liddell Hart judged that the first break in the system came not from Europe but from America, when Lincoln shocked European opinion by directing war against the civilian population of the eleven American States that in State conventions (the same legal instrument that had authorized the State’s entrance into the union) had voted to withdraw from the federation and form a union of their own.

Lincoln’s scorched-earth policy and demand for unconditional surrender exhibited a new frame of mind that only eighty years later would reveal itself in the terror-bombing of Dresden and Hiroshima . . . it has been estimated that more than 135,000 perished in the British and American bombing of Dresden, carried out within three months of the end of the war, when the defeat of Germany was certain.

Dresden was a city of no military value and known to be packed with refugees, mostly women and children fleeing from the Soviet armies in the east.

[America entered World War I in 1917] and rather than [seek] a negotiated settlement . . . Social progressives now spiritualized the war into a holy crusade to restructure all of Europe, to abolish autocracy, and to establish universal democracy. The war was transformed by the language of totality. It was now the war to make the world safe for democracy, and the war to end all wars. The concept of the final war, the philosophically reflexive war, is perhaps the ultimate in the barbarism of refinement.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 297-299)

 

The Importance of a Good Death

Southern historian Shelby Foote explained that “the best historical reading is the source material . . . written by people who saw it.” And he recognized that the people who made up the Confederacy, especially the yeoman farmers, were fiercely independent. “He was not only convinced that he was as good as you were, but if you questioned it, he would shoot you off your horse.” Men like these made for a fearless army few wanted to contend with.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

The Importance of a Good Death

“You don’t want to overlook something that the [South] did have and that was tremendous courage. I’ve studied and studied hard the charge at Gettysburg, the charge at Franklin, the charge at Gaines Mill, or the Northern charge at Fredericksburg, wave after wave, and I do not know of any force on God’s earth that would have got me in any one of those charges.

It absolutely called for you to go out there and face certain death, practically. Now, I will do any kind of thing like that under the influence of elation and the adrenalin popping; it’s just inconceivable to us nowadays that men would try tactics that were fifty years behind the weapons.

They thought that to mass your fire, you had to mass your men, so they suffered casualties. Some battles ran as high as 30 percent. Now that’s just unbelievable, because 4 or 5 percent is very heavy casualties nowadays. You go into a battle and suffer 30 percent . . . at Pickett’s charge, they suffered 60 percent and it’s inconceivable to us . . . the stupidity of it, again.

Originally, the South had a big advantage. They were used to the castes of society and did not take it as an affront that a man had certain privileges. They didn’t think it made him any better than they were. But those privileges came his way, and they were perfectly willing for him to have them as long he didn’t think he was any better than they were.

But the Northern soldiers, they weren’t putting up with any privileges. A Massachusetts outfit spent its first night in the field and damn near had a revolution because the officers wanted to put their bedrolls out of the line. Well, the Southerners never had that problem. It seemed to them sensible that the officers should be over here, and the men there.

Of course, 99.9 percent of that war was fought by home folks. The fighting men were of very high quality, too. You see, those units were together for four years, many of them, and they became superb fighting machines.

You take an outfit like the Twenty-third Virginia: after four years and large numbers of casualties great battles, it becomes a very skillful military instrument. They never went home. Very few furloughs were given – some during the winter months to a few people.

The Civil War was an interesting time. It was very important to make what was called a “good death.” When you are dying, the doctor says you are dying, he [says] you will die about 9 o’clock tonight. You assemble your family around you and sing hymns, and you are brave and stalwart and tell the little woman that she has been good to you and not to cry. And you tell your children to be good and mind their mother. Daddy’s fixing to go away.

That was called a good death, and it was important. It was of tremendous importance.”

(Conversations with Shelby Foote, William C. Carter, editor, University Press of Mississippi, 1989, excerpts pp. 29-31)

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