Re: [civilwarwest] High Command
Dear Mr. McCraven, et al.,Just an aside: A book that looks at the conflict in SC between lowcountry and upcountry elites/leaders through the Early National period is Rachel Klein's Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class in the South Carolina Backcountry, 1760-1808. Klein argues that the spread of the institution of slavery inland played a big part in bridging the gap between well-to-do lowcountry and upcountry whites, that latter, as you say, who generally resented their coastal counterparts' disproportionate influence in state government. At least until SC's state constitution was revised in the early 1800s. I recommend it.
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
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