Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another Thought About the Civil War

I have been reading Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, a great read for the history buff who will read historical fiction!

The author has General Longstreet make the case for defensive warfare in an epoch in which field artillery and repeating rifles have come into use, but before tanks and other armored vehicles were available. Attacking entrenched troops with that kind of fire power by charges in massed formations was suicidal. That might be the reason that both McClellan and Meade were successful in defending against invasions of the Union states while the Union forces were so often unsuccessful in the early years of the war invading the Confederacy.

Incidentally, Shaara also (putting words in the mouth of an English military observer) makes the case that the war was really about the way of life. The southern states had a class based society much like that of European nations, while the northern states were much more egalitarian and much more culturally diverse. The North already had the start of an industrial civilization. The Southern aristocracy saw clearly that a strong central government dominated by the majority population in the North would doom their way of life, as of course it eventually did.

The Europeans saw the war as based on slavery, as do many people today. Yet Lincoln did not begin to emancipate the slaves until convinced that the economic blow of emancipation was needed to win the war. Many in the south understood that slavery was on the way out in any case, seeking more a gradual process rather than an immediate one.

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