Americans Face Total War
The manner of conducting civilized war changed with the French Revolution of 1789, which introduced mass conscription and the mobilization of entire societies to the fighting. Armies formerly of several thousand gave way to armies of hundreds of thousands, and unimaginable carnage.
Added to this were technological advancements in weaponry which only increased the carnage; in the case of the American Civil War, the great advantage of war material production inherent in the industrial North, a navy with which to blockade the South, and the impressment of immigrants and black freedmen into the mercenary ranks gave the South little chance for independence.
By the last year of the American Civil War, the North had 2 million under arms against the dwindling Southern ranks. Southern units were assailed by infantry and cavalry armed with Henry repeating rifles, and Gatling guns were making their appearance on the battlefield by 1864.
Additionally, Sherman’s infamous march through poorly-defended Georgia and the Carolinas, destruction of the South’s agricultural strength, and his waging of war against defenseless civilians brought an inhuman total war to Americans in the South.
“Solitudinem faciunt pacem appellant.” They make a desert and call it peace.” (A Briton of the first century A.D., speaking of the Romans, as quoted by Tacitus, Agricola, 30 (A.D. 98)
“Diplomacy without armaments is like music without instruments.” (Frederick the Great of Prussia, 1712-1786)
“I have heard it said that peace brings riches; riches bring pride; pride brings anger; anger brings war; war brings poverty; poverty brings humanity; humanity brings peace; peace, as I have said, brings riches, and so the world’s affairs go round.” (Italian historian Luigi da Porto, 1509)
“To wage war, you need first of all money; second, you need money; and third, you also need money.” (Prince Montecuccolli of the Hapsburg court (1609-1680).
“The crowd is unable to digest scientific facts, which it scorns and misuses to its own detriment and that of the wise. Let not pearls, then, be thrown to swine.” (Roger Bacon (1214-1292), explaining why he hid his formula for gunpowder in a cryptogram)
“Wars are not paid for in wartime, the bill comes later.” (Benjamin Franklin)
“I don’t want to set fire to any town, and I don’t know any other use of rockets.” (The Duke of Wellington, following the burning of Copenhagen by 25,000 British rockets in 1806.)
“I begin to regard the death and mangling of a couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash.” (General Sherman to his wife, Ellen, in a letter dated June 30, 1864) “If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking. If they want peace, they and their relatives must stop the war.” (General Sherman to General Halleck, September 4, 1864, justifying his scorched-earth policy)
“The main thing in true strategy is simply this: first deal as hard blows at the enemy’s soldiers as possible, and then cause so much suffering to the inhabitants of a country that they will long for peace and press their Government to make it. Nothing should be left to the people but eyes to lament the war.” (General Philip Sheridan (1831-1888)
“It is useless to delude ourselves. All the restrictions, all the international agreements made during peacetime are fated to be swept away like dried leaves on the winds of war.” (Italian theorist of air power and strategic bombing, Gen. Giulio Douhet, 1928)
“Sixty percent of the bombs dropped are not accounted for, less than one percent have hit the aiming point and about three percent [land] within 500 feet.” (Letter from then-Colonel Curtis LeMay to an old friend, January 12, 1943, describing difficulties bombing German targets accurately.)
“We should never allow the history of this war to convict us of throwing the strategic bomber at the man in the street.” (Gen. Ira C. Eaker, commander of the Eighth Air Force in Britain during WW2, in a letter of January 1, 1945.)
[Captain Robert] Lewis, co-pilot of the Enola Gay, silently wrote in his log of the mission, “My God, what have we done?”
“Hundreds of injured people who were trying to escape to the hills passed our house. The sight of them was almost unbearable. Their faces and hands were burnt and swollen; and great sheets of skin had peeled away from their tissues to hang down like rags on a scarecrow. They moved like ants.” (Dr. Tabuchi, reporting on what happened to him in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945).
“Mr. President, I have blood on my hands.” (Scientist Robert Oppenheimer to Truman in 1946.)
(Total War: What it is, How it Got That Way, Thomas Powers and Ruthven Tremain, William Morrow & Company, 1988, excepts)