Friday, May 27, 2011

Dr. Fleming on General Sherman

From a response to a comment in "Chronicles Magazine" in 2008:
" I wrote as I did in the belief that you are a decent man who has been victimized by modern education.
Yes, I am saying Sherman was no better than Bomber Harris, indeed, far worse, because his criminal campaign of mass looting, burning, and raping was not aimed at a national enemy against whom his country had fought a few decades earlier in a terrible war but against people whom he had known, his fellow Americans. How many civilians died as a result of the Union’s decision to make war on civilians? No one knows but most estimates I have read are in excess of the roughly 600,000 military deaths. The majority were black, some of them killed in cold blood because they became an annoyance as they followed the troops, but most from the starvation that followed the destruction of an agrarian economy. I am not at all an expert in these matters and have only done casual reading except in certain regions, such as South Carolina and Missouri. Some jackass keeps on writing in to complain about Quantrill, an Ohioan whose deeds were not known to the Confederate commanders. But the deliberate murders, lootings, and ethnic cleansing committed by, for example, General Thomas Ewing, whose General Order #11 is so tragically portrayed by George Caleb Bingham, a unionist (if memory serves.) Read up on why Cole Younger joined up with Quantrill, after the Yankees tortured his father to death simply because he would not tell them where he had hidden his money or read WG Simms’ meticulous account of how Sherman burned Columbia, SC and the outrages committed by the troops and by vicious scoundrels like Black Jack Logan of Illinois, or look up the sack of Athens Alabama (in which women of both races were raped), the perpetrator of which, a lunatic Cossack colonel, although condemned by a court martial was reinstated and promoted by Lincoln. But why go on? The Union attitude is summed up by Phil Sheridan, later as an observer of the Franco-Prussian War. Though most Europeans had condemned France for starting the conflict, opinion shifted when the Prussians brutally besieged Paris. This was not enough for Sheridan, who shocked the Prussians by telling them how he and his boys used to manage these things. They should be left with nothing but their eyes, to weep with, he told the astonished Prussians.
What was the South guilty of? The decision to leave a union that had become odious to them after 3 generations, a union for which southerners had fought and died for disproportionately. Say, if you like, that they had reached the wrong conclusion or a conclusion you do not like, but Lincoln refused all negotiation and deliberately provoked a war, as he said he did, in attempting to reinforce Ft. Sumter. The result was the most terrible war of the 19th century.
Lee’s father was a hero of the revolution; his wife was the descendant of Martha Custis Washington, their 17th century plantation Arlington an almost sacred memorial of our nation’s first first lady was confiscated by the vile union government out of pure meanness. They locked up poor President Davis in a cold damp cell and would not permit his wife to provide warm clothing–they hoped he would die because they knew they could not put him on trial without incurring the censure of the civilized world. Or, read sometime about what the union did in the siege of Charleston, the most beautiful and civilized city in North America. (Milby Burton’s book, by the way, is excellent). But every part of the South has tales to tell, not legends, but documented cases of looting, arson, rape, and murder.
That most Southerners no longer care much about the systematic atrocities ordered by the union government and carried out by its armies is not so much a sign that they have forgiven the north as that they have been victimized by a Northern system of government education that has made them as ignorant as anyone in Illinois. But I hope you will understand why Southerners–all too few–who do remember find the platitudes of the History Channel or Ken Burns just a little offensive. To defend Lincoln and condemn the South is a little like telling the Ukrainians that Hitler was right. There was a time when good men in the South made common cause with their counterparts in the North and preferred not to speak too plainly about the late unpleasantness, but with the Civil Rights Revolution that once again subjected southern states to Reconstruction and with the growing smugness and hypocrisy of northerners who praise Lincoln and condemn slavery–the mote in their Southern neighbors’ eyes–and refuse to take note of the beam in their own–a pointless and criminal war– some young men feel they have had enough.
Not all northerners were evil; many were indifferent to the War or opposed it, and of those who supported it, some thought it should have been fought honorably. There is no point in demonizing all “Yankees.” But the new style of national history is giving the South much the same message as a sheriff is said to have given to women facing rape: Don’t fight it; just roll over and enjoy it."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

General Hooker on Sherman - Part III

December 8th 1864

Dear Senator Wilson;

Generals Sherman and Sheridan, I am informed, have been nominated to the Senate for commissions of major-general in the regular army, while I am their senior as a brigadier. This is an outrage to me, and would be so pronounced by nine-tenths of the army were they allowed a free expression of their opinion.

No matter what the newspapers may say to the contrary, no officer high in command has been more unfortunate than Sherman, and this moment he is engaged in a raid which will tend to prolong the war, when he had it in his power to have, utterly destroyed Hood's army. At the time he cut loose from Atlanta, Hood was on the north side of the Tennessee River, but instead of marching for him, he chose to march from him. Blows, not marches, are to kill the rebellion. It is our duty to look after the rebel armies, and not territory, for that will come when the military power of the rebels is broken. Sherman's present raid will be likely to resemble in its results that of last winter to Meridian, in which he suffered much more than his adversary. We will, however, hope for the best. Whatever was gained by the campaign of Atlanta, all will admit was abandoned when he quit Atlanta, undoing at the close of the year what he had gained at the beginning. As regards the campaign of Atlanta, considering the relative strength of the forces and the means of each, taken in connection with the field of operations, the rebellion has presented no such opportunity for the display of generalship, and yet how badly improved. We merely crowded back an enemy inferior to us as one to three, instead of annihilating him, as we bad many opportunities to do. No campaign of ours is open to more severe criticism, and if it has hitherto escaped, it has been for the reason that the political condition of the country did not justify it; it was barren of fruit, but prolific in deeds of the noblest heroism on the part of the troops. Sherman is active and intelligent, but so devoid of judgment that it is actually unsafe to trust an army to his command. 1 know of what I am writing. If he is not flighty, I never saw a flighty man

Sheridan has just been made a brigadier, and now I hear he is named for a major-generalcy for Cedar Run. I have no disposition to disparage his conduct on this field, but how many times would I have been advanced had my conduct been regarded with equal favor? I have no objection to his being rewarded, but not at my expense, when I have had ten fields to his one, and acknowledged by my companions to have been a fighting general on all of them. What does it mean, then, Senator, that these indignities are crowded upon me? I am informed that Grant will never forgive me for taking Lookout Mountain, although assaulted in obedience to his orders; but the trouble was, I was too successful. But can it be possible that the President of the United States will adopt the opinions of the lieutenant-general in regard to men and war as his standard, by which he shall award the rewards and punishments of service? Is it possible that he should not be fully understood after the operations of this summer? If not, be assured, Senator, after four years of war all the high places of the army will be filled with men of medium ability, unless the Senate should interpose to prevent it. Every day one is made to blush at the ignorance which prevails in regard to the war, and this will continue to be the case until we can have a national organ, controlled by the highest intelligence of the land, to enunciate the truth in regard to passing events. Our people read newspapers to avoid thinking, and hence it is not surprising that they should often appear to great disadvantage. But I am wandering from my subject.

General Hooker on Sherman - Part II

From a Letter to Senator Wade
December 13th 1864:

"As for Sherman, no man occupying his position has been more unfortunate. His attack on Vicksburg in 1801 [1862] was a failure; his attack on Mission Ridge was a terrible repulse; Ids campaign to Meridian early this year was worse than a failure; and in his campaign of Atlanta, (considering his men, means, and field of operations, the most splendid opportunity for the display of generalship the rebellion has presented) he succeeded in pushing back the enemy, inferior to him as one to three, and even that advantage he abandoned in cutting.loose from Atlanta to run away from his adversary, instead of toward him. Now Hood is investing Nashville, occupying a position he held two years ago, after two years of campaigning to drive him into the interior. You and I know that the rebellion is dead when its military power is destroyed, and not until then; it is to be killed by blows, not marches; and, after an experience of four years, it does seem as if we ought to know this fact. Had Sherman marched against Hood, there was no earthly reason why he should escape; I hope that he will not now. Sherman is crazy; be has no more judgment than a child; and yet it is with such men that the high places of the army are being filled. Grant is determined to have no officer of ability near him in rank. Unless the Senate should interpose, our armies will be more and more feebly commanded as the war progresses. The absolute want of a just standard by which to award the rewards and punishments of service has tended more than any other one fact to prevent the army from arriving at that excellence in discipline and that success in battle we had the right and reason to expect. With a proper appreciation of merit on the part of the civil and military authorities in rebeldom, they have made an army inferior in number and inferior in character equal to if not superior to our own."

"Of my campaigns in the West last fall and the present year but little is known, except by those actually present, for the reason that a studied effort has been made by Generals Grant and Sherman to keep me in the background. I understand that I incurred the displeasure of the lieutenant-general in my assault of Lookout Mountain, and although it was made with strict conformity to his orders, that I cannot have his forgiveness. It was too successful; I carried away the honors, when he intended that 1 should be a spectator to Sherman's operations. In the campaign of this summer under Sherman it was the fortune of the Twentieth Corps, which 1 commanded, to do the heavy work, and it was accomplished in a manner that extorted the applause of all the armies. They became so partial to me that Sherman offered me a professional and personal indignity, which he knew would drive me from the army, and it was permitted to be done by the President of the United States. When McPherson fell, Sherman took Howard, my junior, an officer who cannot make himself felt on the field of battle, and assigned him to the command of that army, when the rumor that I was to have, it was received with expressions of great joy from one end of the line to the other. The dissatisfaction of the troops at this continues to this day."

"For the private part of the indignity, it would have given me. the greatest satisfaction to have broken my saber over the head of Sherman; for the professional part, I could but make application to be removed from that army. Every one understood the cause, and every one appreciated and approved of my withdrawal. During that entire campaign, Schofield, an officer unknown to the war, was in command of the Army of the Ohio, and McPherson, another of my juniors, exercised the command of the Army of the Tennessee. Such was my feeling of degradation, or humiliation, that I saw no day on that campaign that I would not have withdrawn from the service in disgust, could I have done so with justice to myself and the cause in which I was engaged. I could die, but I could not commit suicide. On coming East a new command was just about to be sent up the Potomac River, and it was given to Sheridan, a new man; but it was thought better to experiment with him, than give it to one who had won and sustained the character of "Fighting Joe" in all the armies. Sheridan was first made a brigadier-general for comparatively nothing, and now for his fight at Cedar Creek they are attempting to push him forward in an unprecedented "manner, over my head, to a major-generalcy. Understand me, I do not wish to underestimate his conduct in his last battle; but who will say, as a feat of arms, that it was to be compared with Lookout Mountain, or Peach Tree Creek, the 20th of July last? In this last fight my adversary outnumbered me two to one: in his the disparity of forces was the same, but in his favor.Every word I write you is true. Then let me ask again, why is all this? To avoid the trouble and responsibilities of the wart does the President surrender everything to General Grant? Is be willing, in his desire to have an easy time, that injustice of the most monstrous character should be visited upon subordinates? My blood curdles to think of it. You probably have taken the measure of General Grant before this; if you have not, you will soon have an opportunity."

General hooker on Meade

From his December 1863 letter to Secretary Chase:

"It appears to me that our people have it in their hands to make it of longer or shorter duration. I am glad to see that an effort is being made to merge the volunteers and regulars. This should have been done at the beginning of the war. In fact, there is no difference now; it only exists in theory. I know that I accepted my commission of brigadier-general in the army reluctantly, and only for the reason that it was tendered me in compliment for services. I have since had occasion to regret it many times, for it has only been an instrument of self-degradation to me ever since. Officers who had no commissions in the regular service have jumped me, while in the assignment of commands it has never been considered. If my services in this rebellion do not merit reward, they certainly have been such as should shield me from punishment. Many of my juniors are in £he exercise of independent commands, while I am here with more rank piled on top of me than a well man can stand up under, with a corporal's guard, comparatively, for a command. You cannot wonder, then, at the sincerity of my desire for the war to be brought to an end irrespective of the country and the cause. I see that they are pitching into Meade on all sides. I lost my confidence in him when he allowed Lee to escape. I thought well of him as a corps commander, and never doubted but that he would do as well with the responsibilities of an army upon him. He is a small craft, and carries no ballast. "

General Hooker on Sherman

From a letter to Secretary Chase on the Battle of Chattanooga:

Headquarters Eleventh And Twelfth Corps, Lookout Valley, Tenn., December 28, 1863.

"That day I crossed Lookout, and the night of that day and the following morning Sherman crossed the Tennessee with his command. Those that crossed first took possession of high ground, and commenced throwing up defenses, the enemy doing the same thing on a continuation of the same ridge, a broad ravine or depression dividing them. The morning found the former with one line and the latter with two lines of hastily thrown-up defenses, not so long, however, but that they could readily be turned either to the right or the left. Sherman attacked them in front and was repulsed, and only abandoned it after the fourth trial; not, however, until he had carried the advanced line, but with losses more severe than those experienced by that officer in his attacks on Vicksburg, the 28th and 29th of December, 1862. The enemy's supports were placed behind his second line, and on that was placed his main reliance. All of Sherman's attacks were made long after I had carried Lookout, which had enabled me to command the enemy's defenses across Chattanooga Valley, and which my success had compelled him to abandon. This placed me on the direct line to cut off his retreat, while Sherman, had he been successful, could only have pushed him back over the only line he had to retreat on. This attack on the left, after I had taken Lookout, which was well known to all the army, can only be considered in the light of a disaster.

Sherman is an active, energetic officer, but in judgment is as infirm as Burnside. He will never be successful. Please remember what I tell you. It was natural for Grant to feel partial to his old companions, and do all in his power to enhance their renown. Nevertheless, you will appreciate my nervousness in being placed in the situation in which this partiality was manifested, almost wholly at my expense. I will do Grant the justice to believe that he was honestly of the opinion that the plan he adopted was the most likely to insure success to our arms. He aimed for the battle- to commence and end on the left, while it commenced and ended on the right. I am informed that he has since said, "Damn the battle; I had nothing to do with it."

General Hooker on General Lee

From John Hay's Journals:

September 1863

— I dined to-night at Willard's. ... Speaking of Lee [Hooker] expressed himself slightingly of Lee's abilities. He says he was never muchrespected in the army. In Mexico he was surpassed by all his lieutenants. In the cavalry he was held in no esteem. He was regarded very highly by General Scott. He was a courtier, and readily recommended himself by his insinuating manner to the General [Scott], whose petulant and arrogant temper had driven of late years all officers of spirit and self-respect away from him.

"The strength of the Rebel army rests on the broad shoulders of Longstreet. He is the brain of Lee, as Stonewall Jackson was his right arm. Before every battle he had been advised with. After every battle Lee may be found in his tent. He is a weak man and little of a soldier. He naturally rests on Longstreet, who is a soldier born."

When we recall that only four months earlier Hooker, having been beaten at Chancellorsville, boasted of successfully withdrawing his army across the river from Lee's army, which was not pursuing, we shall find more humor in his depreciation of Lee than he intended. From the frankness with which Hooker and the others talked to Hay we may be justified in suspecting that they thought they might through him reach the President. Lincoln, who never failed to give a man credit for his good qualities, remarked to Hay, "Whenever trouble arises I can always rely on Hooker's magnanimity."

Monday, May 16, 2011

The West Point Class of 1846

This is the West Point class that the stars fell upon, much like the WP Class of 1915 (Ike, Bradley, etc.). Out of the 59 Graduates, 8 become Confederate Generals, and 10 became Union ones. The three most famous were Stonewall Jackson, McClellan (2nd in his class), Pickett (The Class Goat ranked 59th). The graduates of the class '46 were the perfect age for Civil war Generals, most were in their mid 30s when the war began. Still young enough for combat - but old enough to handle high command.

Some other facts:

  • Of the 59 Graduates, 18 were dead by 1861. Six had died in the Mexican War, three were killed by Indians and astounding (by 21st century standards) 9 out 59 had died of disease or injury.
  • Of the 41 alive in 1861 - 10 joined the Confederacy, 26 the Union, and 5 sat out the war. Two of these five spent the war as Vermont farmers, 2 had left the country (England and Cuba) and didn't bother to return, and 1 is simply listed as "whereabouts unknown".
  • 8 of the 10 Confederate Graduates became Generals. Davis, a West Point grad himself, gave preferential treatment to West Pointers.
  • 10 of the 26 Union grads became Generals. After McClellan, the most important were probably Reno, Couch, Stoneman, and Sturgis.
  • Of the 36 who fought; 4 Confederates died along with 3 of the 26 Unionists.
  • AP Hill is sometimes listed as "Class of '46" but didn't graduate until 1847.