Sunday, October 27, 2019

Another Civil War book

The Civil War book "Hymns of the Republic" becomes available October 29, 2019.

Of the book:

Now, S.C. Gwynne’s Hymns of the Republic addresses the time Ulysses S. Grant arrives to take command of all Union armies in March 1864 to the
surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox a year later. Gwynne breathes new life into the epic battle between Lee and Grant; the advent of 180,000 black soldiers
in the Union army; William Tecumseh Sherman’s March to the Sea; the rise of Clara Barton; the election of 1864 (which Lincoln nearly lost); the wild and
violent guerrilla war in Missouri; and the dramatic final events of the war, including the surrender at Appomattox and the murder of Abraham Lincoln.


History News Network has comments by the author:

At the beginning of the war’s last year, Ulysses S. Grant had taken charge of the Union armies and particularly of the Army of the Potomac,
whose mission was to destroy Lee. To the dismay of people in the North, Grant utterly failed to do that. Sixty-five thousand Union casualties
in 2 months in Virginia testified to that. Lee would not be beaten. And so the war dragged on.

But Lee’s—and the South’s—ability to survive came at a ghastly price. The more Lee won—or at least did not lose—the more the South itself was destroyed.
Survival meant destruction. This is the Lee Paradox. The collapsing Confederacy was steadily taking down everything and everyone with it.
Two-thirds of all Southern wealth had vanished, along with 40 percent of its livestock, half of its farm machinery, and 25 percent of all white men between the ages of 25 and 40.

The worst part of Lee’s success was the hard war against civilians that it unleashed in the form of devastatingly destructive marches by Union generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan. Their targets were not armies. After the fall of Atlanta in September 1864, Sherman was not much interested in armies. He wanted to break the South’s unbreakable will, and so the war was conducted mostly against civilians and their assets. Sherman’s march through Georgia in the fall of 1864 was horrendously destructive of all productive assets, from cotton gins to crops and barns and railroads. It was exceeded in destruction and horror only by what Sherman’s army did in South Carolina, which made the march to the sea in Georgia seem almost kindly by comparison. In the Shenandoah Valley that same fall, Phil Sheridan’s troopers fanned out behind his infantry and burned everything they could get their hands on except, technically, houses, though they burned plenty of those, too. Sheridan’s burning campaign also gave impetus to a brutal guerrilla war in Virginia, in which commanders like John Singleton Mosby and George Armstrong Custer engaged in retaliatory killings of captive soldiers. This was bitterness on a scale unseen in the war.

Enhancing this turn into hatred was the presence, in the Union army, of 180,000 black troops, 10 percent of the entire Union army, more than 60 percent of whom had recently been slaves. Confederate soldiers hated them with a passion, targeting them for slaughter in battles and giving them no quarter when captured.


Perhaps not lost on Robert E. Lee—this was the final irony of the Paradox—was the fact that he was personally ruined by his own success. By the end of the war he had lost his family’s three large estates—including Arlington House (where Arlington National Cemetery is today)—all of his productive assets(including the people he once enslaved), and all of his personal money and investments. While he and the Army of Northern Virginia fought hard to the end, his shattered family became refugees, virtual paupers.


At the moment, IPBiz does not have access to the book itself. However, as to the remarks on "history news network," one recalls Lee's arguments to Confederate politicians to justify the Gettysburg campaign, which fairly outlined the fate of the Confederacy described in "Lee's Paradox." That is, "Lee's Paradox" was not a paradox to Robert E. Lee, but was quite foreseeable.

Separately, as to NOT targeting armies, the attack on Corinth, and later Vicksburg campaign, of Grant, with Sherman, did not target armies, but rather targeted strategic points. The Confederacy did not respond with a unified strategy: Davis wanted Vicksburg held; Johnston did not. Pemberton's army was captured because it remained in Vicksburg, not because it was the actual target.

One can find a discussion of Lee's views, circa spring 1863, at PadreSteve's
The Failure to Link Grand-Strategy and Operational Objectives: Robert E. Lee and the Decision to Invade Pennsylvania 1863 .

Some relevant text from PadreSteve:

In early May 1863 Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia realized that the Confederacy was in desperate straits. Despite numerous victories against heavy odds, Lee knew that time was running out. Though he had beaten the Army of the Potomac under General Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville, he had not destroyed it and Hooker’s Army, along with a smaller force commanded by General Dix in Hampton Roads still threatened Richmond.


Lee’s Chief of Staff Colonel Charles Marshall crafted a series of courses of action for Lee designed to present the invasion option as the only feasible alternative for the Confederacy. Lee’s presentation was an “either or” proposal. He gave short shrift to any possibility of reinforcing Vicksburg and explained “to my mind, it resolved itself into a choice of one of two things: either to retire to Richmond and stand a siege, which must ultimately end in surrender, or to invade Pennsylvania.” [20] As any military planner knows the presentation of courses of action designed to lead listeners to the course of action that a commander prefers by ignoring the risks of such action, downplaying other courses of action is disingenuous. In effect Lee was asking Davis and his cabinet to “choose between certain defeat and possibly victory” [21] while blatantly ignoring other courses of action or playing down very real threats.


Lee was convinced that ultimate victory could only be achieved by decisively defeating and destroying Federal military might in the East. His letters are full of references to crush, defeat or destroy Union forces opposing him. His strategy of the offensive was demonstrated on numerous occasions in 1862 and early 1863, however in the long term, the strategy of the offensive was unfeasible and counterproductive to Southern strategy. Lee’s offensive operations always cost his Army dearly in the one commodity that the South could not replace, nor keep pace with its Northern adversary, his men. His realism about that subject was shown after he began his offensive when he wrote Davis about how time was not on the side of the Confederacy. He wrote: “We should not therefore conceal from ourselves that our resources in men are constantly diminishing, and the disproportion in this respect…is steadily augmenting.” [31]


Lee had to know from experience that even in victory “the Gettysburg campaign was bound to result in heavy Confederate casualties…limit his army’s capacity to maneuver…and to increase the risk of his being driven into a siege in the Richmond defenses.” [34] The fact that the campaign did exactly that demonstrates both the unsoundness of the campaign and is ironic, for Lee had repeatedly said in the lead up to the offensive in his meetings with Davis, Seddon and the cabinet that “a siege would be fatal to his army” [35] and “which must ultimately end in surrender.” [36]

References of PadreSteve:

[31] Taylor, John M. Duty Faithfully Performed: Robert E Lee and His CriticsBrassey’s, Dulles VA 1999 p.134

[32] Gallagher, Gary W. The Confederate War: How Popular Will, Nationalism and Military Strategy Could not Stave Off Defeat Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London 1999 p.120

[33] Alexander, Edward Porter. Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander, ed. Gary W. Gallagher, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill NC, 1989 p.415

[34] Ibid. NolanR. E. Lee and July 1 at Gettysburg in the First Day at Gettysburg p.11

[35] Ibid. NolanR. E. Lee and July 1 at Gettysburg in the First Day at Gettysburg p.11

[36] Ibid. Foote The Civil War, A Narrative. Volume Two Fredericksburg to Meridian p.431

***Just to connect the dots, Lee argued "for" the Gettysburg campaign because Lee felt that defensive victories, such as the recent success at Chancellorsville, would lead only to a draining war, which Lee knew the
South would lose. There was absolutely no "Lee Paradox" as to Lee. Further, after the failure at Gettysburg of Lee's army, Lee definitely foresaw the inevitable outcome, which would deplete Southern resources.


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