Myths of the war (CSA)
- I've been having a great time reviewing service records from the CSA
the last two days. The records seem to conflict with many of the
myths about the war taught in elementary or high school. What
follows is my take on some of these myths.
(1) The military leadership of the confederacy was better educated
than the leadership of the Union.
I suspect that this is a generalization comparing RE Lee's class rank
at West Point (2) to Grant, Meade, Hooker, Burnside, etc. A
significantly greater number of Union generals were WP valedictorians
than CSA generals. Hood (45) was not the scholastic equal of Sherman
(6, I think).
A larger percentage of Union generals seem to have been West
Pointers, as well.
(2) Lincoln's political generals were a major problem. Little is
mentioned of Davis' political generals.
In the west, McClernand was brought under control. Banks and Butler
had mixed records at best. Breckinridge, Pillow, Price, Polk, et.al.
seemed to have done much more harm to the CSA.
(3) West Point records are good predictors of CW records. Among top
CSA generals, those whose WP rank was highest were: Beauregard (2),
Bragg (5), Albert Sidney Johnston (8), Leonidas Polk (8), and Simon
Buckner and Joe Wheeler (both 11th). Class rank may have gotten you
a higher rank more quickly but it didn't translate to performance.
(4) The top leadership of the US army defected. Only old fogy in
chief Winfield Scott stayed.
Many of the defectors proved to be individuals with high rank and
little education or value (David Twiggs, Loring). Winfield Scott's
Anaconda Plan, although much derided at the time, played a big part
in Union success.
(5) Grant was a drunk and butcher who stumbled to victory through
greater numbers and luck.
Grant's opponents had greater casualties than his troops did.
Although there is considerable evidence that Grant had a drinking
problem before the war and some evidence that he was at least
occassionally drunk during the war during lulls, the evidence of
Grant during the battles is of someone who was alert, hard working,
and in control.
(6) Sherman was a cruel and evil man. After all, his boys
threatened Tara. "War is hell" and all that about making Georgia
Sherman's principal methods around Atlanta and to the sea were
movement and destruction of railroad tracks. The burning of Atlanta,
Tara, etc. was partially a novel, partially the work of departing
confederates and partially connected to Sherman's bummers. Uncle
Billy had a very big and colorful mouth.
Thanks for allowing this .