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Re: [civilwarwest] High command

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  • Hugh Martyr
    ... From: philip@twinoaks.org To: civilwarwest@egroups.com Date: 24 May 2000 01:28 Subject: [civilwarwest]
    Message 1 of 8 , May 28, 2000
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      -----Original Message-----
      From: philip@... <philip@...>
      To: civilwarwest@egroups.com <civilwarwest@egroups.com>
      Date: 24 May 2000 01:28
      Subject: [civilwarwest] High command

      >Hello Civil War West Discussion Group,
      > I just joined this group last week, went back and read all of the
      >messages since January( just to get up to speed), and now it
      >appears that the group is either dying or at the very least
      >slumbering. The most recent messages almost all involve fine
      >points about artillary, and May has had only eight contributions to
      >the discussion.
      > Part of the reason I have been reading the archive of messages
      >is to see whether you folks would hit on the subject that I am most
      >interested in. You have hit all around it, but never really mentioned
      >it. I think that it may be a critical piece to understanding the war in
      >the west, and may be one of the more important reasons for the
      >loss of the war. It is a speculative subject, or at least I am not
      >aware of any studies verifying or denying this theory.
      > There has been much discussion about the military genius of
      >Nathan Bedford Forrest. There is much agreement about the
      >talents of Pat Cleburn. Both of these men exhibited traits that
      >demanded further investigation into whether they should have been
      >promoted to command the AoT. Almost all discussions of
      >Richmonds choices were largely limited to Johnston, Bragg, and
      >finally Hood. I maintain that this was no mistake, and that it may
      >have cost the war.
      > Nathan Bedford Forrest's name cannot be mentioned without
      >the words military genius following close behind, and yet he
      >remained a cavalry officer commanding relatively few men and, to
      >my knowlege, was never offered command of an army. If he was
      >such a genius, then why not? His talents may have proved just as
      >effective in a larger sphere. We will never know. As an aside, I
      >cannot help adding to the comments defending Forrest in spite of
      >his having been a slave trader. It has been pointed out that we
      >should not judge him by 20th century standards, and I agree. In
      >his favor, I believe that he was a man of honor. He fervently
      >believed in the Code of the Southern Gentleman. His was quick to
      >protect his honor and lived a chivalrous life toward women. He was
      >also a rough and a profane man. He came from a humble
      >background, and was not above grabbing a subordinate officer, who
      >refused to pull his own weight, by the scruff of the neck and
      >throwing him overboard. He must have been tremendously
      >powerful. To reach down and haul a Yankee soldier onto his
      >saddle as a shield must have taken enormous strength. But I
      >maintain that he was judged by 19th century standards and found
      >wanting. Slave traders were considered a low bunch of characters
      >by the very people they sold to. Southern high society would not,
      >could not, ever fully accept him into their midst.
      > The aristocracy was a very select crowd. It is the definition of
      >an aristocracy to be select. It was the aristocracy that pushed for
      >war, and it was the aristocracy that prosecuted it. Their definition
      >of the ultimate attainment of society was one in which this select
      >group of people was allowed to pursue all of humankind's greatest
      >callings (arts, sciences, politics, and military) because of the
      >leisure time afforded to them by the labor of others. This select
      >group maintained a monopoly on the state goverments of the
      >South. It was these same legislatures that selected the
      >conventions for secession. I do not maintain that they dragged the
      >South into the war unsupported by the general populace at all, but
      >they certainly knew that once secession came, and if the North
      >invaded, then the other 75% of the population would immediately
      >rise to protect their homes and their lands from the invaders,as all
      >good Americans would. The aristocracy prosecuted the war for the
      >South. I believe the evidence is there. Nathan Bedford Forrest and
      >Pat Cleburn were not of the aristocracy, and I expect were
      >repugnant to them. Pat Cleburn was an Irishman of humble
      >beginnings, just one step above the Negro in those days. It was
      >probably a stretch to promote those guys as far as they did, but
      >after all, things were pretty desperate.
      > Now let's look at the other side. Abraham Lincoln was a hick
      >from Illinois. He was an embarrassment to high society in
      >Washington, but they learned to tolerate him. He certainly had no
      >hesitation about promoting whoever aided his ability to prosecute
      >the war. We are all familiar with the long sad list of generals that
      >he went through before he found the one. Lincoln's relentless
      >search was strictly a talent search, and instead of restricting the
      >pool from which he was allowed to choose from(as the South did),
      >he was ever widening it. Many of the same people who spend time
      >touting N.B. Forrest and Pat Cleburn also spend a fair amount of
      >time degrading Grant and Sherman. But look where they came
      >from. Grant was pretty much a failure at everything that he did
      >other than wage war. He had quit his army career with a drinking
      >problem, and didn't accomplish much more than that until the war.
      >Sherman was a volatile character who turned down a commission
      >in the early stages of the war because of his disgust with the
      >politicians who brought about that awful mess, and later had a
      >'nervous breakdown' that many thought signaled the end of his
      >career. In spite of these beginnings, both of these men were
      >catapaulted to the commands of large armies that eventually wore
      >down their opponents and won the war. Incidentally, I don't agree
      >that Grant was a poor general. One of you pointed out very clearly
      >the striking characteristics of the map of the campaign that
      >eventually holed Lee up in Richmond and Petersburg. That dance
      >of those two armies as they moved, sidestepping as they went, is
      >the most eloquent testimony to Grant's generalship. He was pitted
      >against a brilliant and wily opponent who would have taken
      >advantage of any serious misstep that he made. He only made
      >one: the Wilderness. He almost lost it there. I don't agree that
      >Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor were two battles where Lee beat
      >Grant, as someone has suggested. He was experimenting with
      >trying to break through entrenchments. There were numerous
      >generals in the first World War who spent four years trying to do
      >the same thing and lost a lot more men than Grant. Grant almost
      >cooked Lee's goose at Spotsylvania when Lee pulled his artillary
      >too soon. Grant is also the only man who ever stole the march on
      >Lee. Imagine his exultation to have left Lee wondering where his
      >army had gone when he crossed the James on the way to
      >Petersburg. Imagine his fury when he failed to take the city in
      >time. The turning point of the war was when Grant turned toward
      >Richmond after the Wilderness in stead of retreating as so many
      >other generals had done.
      > So I maintain that one of the most important reasons why the
      >South lost the war was that an aristocracy will always fail against a
      >democracy, given enough time. At the beginning of the war, the
      >South had the greatest talent. The aristocracy naturally trained
      >their sons in the arts of riding and shooting. They sent their sons
      >for military training. They were by nature more militant than the
      >North. But as time went on, that select group would get narrower
      >and narrower as death took its toll. In the North, with a larger
      >population to begin with, and with a policy of promoting talent
      >regardless of their backgrounds, it was merely a matter of time.
      >Philip Callen
      >Best friends, most artistic, class clown Find 'em here:
      >I find I agree in all you say. I feel that Cleburne and Forrest would never
      have gotten the promotion they deserved. In regard to Grant's so called loss
      at Cold Harbour; the British 1st W.W. Generals were victims of the saying:
      Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of history are condemned to repeat
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