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High Command

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  • philip@twinoaks.org
    Dear Mr. McCraven, et al., Thanks for the prompt and lengthy reply. It gives me much to think about, and may suggest further reading. While many of your
    Message 1 of 2 , May 24, 2000
      Dear Mr. McCraven, et al.,
      Thanks for the prompt and lengthy reply. It gives me much to
      think about, and may suggest further reading.
      While many of your points about the Southern planter
      aristocracy are good ones, I must take issue with some of them.
      While the aristocracy may have been democratic within their own
      group, an admitted improvement on the European model, a good
      case can be made that they were far from it in relation to everyone
      else. You are well aware of the upland people in most of the
      Southern states and their perpetual complaints of lack of
      representation in their state governments. Where did West Virginia
      come from after all? In addition, while I will agree that they were a
      fluid group, as you point out, they were still very selective in their
      politics and in their world view. Good breeding, after all, was what
      it was all about, whether you were talking about horses or people.
      I have just finished reading A.H.Stephens biography, and his
      attitudes were widely held by his class: that there is a natural
      hieracrchy in nature, and that their class held their rightful place at
      the top. I could quote Jefferson Davis, Calhoun, and many others
      who mirrored those beliefs. I find it impossible to ignore the many
      decades leading up to the war, and the power struggle that took
      place between them and the forces who opposed them in the
      North. As the war drew closer, as they were hemmed in and
      cornered, they became more and more selective in their attitudes
      and behavior as they tried to maintain their grasp on the reins of
      power. These attitudes must have carried over into their
      prosecution of the war. Their entire world view demanded it.
      I am willing to concede that Jefferson Davis may have been the
      real problem. His fierce loyalty was carried to a fault. The other
      side of this argument is Braxton Bragg. Most of the contributors to
      this forum agree that he was a disaster. His performances, at
      Perryville and Murfreesboro left much to be desired, and while he
      won at Chickamauga, from that evening on his performance was
      awful. Forrest must have been livid, and rightfully so. He was
      branded as being insubordinate, but sometimes that behavior is
      justified. In my view there were three generals who understood the
      psychology of battle and its importance: Forrest, Jackson, and
      Sheridan. All of them knew in their hearts that the key was to get
      the opponent running and keep them running. They had the elan,
      the charisma or whatever quality that it took to convince their
      soldier of the same thing. I think one of the most chilling accounts
      of any episode in the war was when Forrest relentlessly chased a
      defeated opponent for many days after the original encounter.
      What a horrible feeling it must have been to be running from those
      men! Forrest knew that an opportunity like the one presented after
      Chickamauga was a rare event. He was chomping at the bit to go
      after that army that had collapsed in a demoralized state and left
      the field in rout, Thomas notwithstanding. Whether there was
      much to be gained from the pursuit, or whether Rosecrans and
      Thomas would have succeeded in rallying their forces is academic
      The attempt to crush them should have been made.
      To the claims that men, materials and armaments were the
      telling factor of the war, and the vision of shoeless soldiers
      continuing on against all odds, I have a response. I think that for at
      least the first two years of the war, the outcome was up in the air.
      It took that long for the North to garner their forces and prosecute
      the war in a manner that insured defeat for the South. If the
      outcome had been so clear cut, then you and I would not find this
      subject so endlessly fascinating. I believe that the war was
      essentially stalemated in the East, and that is why I joined this
      discussion group, because I am pretty sure that the war in the
      West is badly overlooked. As for the shoeless soldiers, the Army
      of the Potomac took a terrible thrashing in the war. They lost over
      and over and over again. I would be willing to wager that those men
      would have been willing to trade their shoes and knapsacks for
      Stonewall. While I believe that too much emphasis is often placed
      on individuals in history, for two opposing forces that seemed to be
      so evenly matched for two years, it may have come down to the
      individuals that were thrust forward into key positions of
      responsibility as the deciding factor. Hence my original
      Philip Callen
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