Tuesday, December 03, 2019

What does the Civil War battle of Shiloh teach us about trade deals with China? Likely not much.

In a post titled Trade warriors should heed bloody lessons of the Civil War , LEE SCHAFER begins

As the trade war with China continues with no real end in sight, those in charge of American trade policy might want to revisit the story of the American Civil War Battle of Shiloh.

The gist of Schafer's point:

That’s when the reality of the war finally sank in for Grant: There wasn’t going to be any one decisive action that could bring it to a quick close. As Grant later wrote in his memoirs, “I gave up all idea of saving the Union except by complete conquest.”

It would take years and many more horrific battles.

Now, try to think back to when the recent trade conflicts first really escalated. It was March 2018, and maybe the easiest thing to remember from that period is the president’s observation that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

Schafer notes:

The U.S. Army contingent that gathered there in 1862 was led by two of the most celebrated West Point graduates ever, Ulysses S. Grant and his right-hand guy, William T. Sherman.

Well, one needs to ask "how celebrated" Grant and Sherman were at the time of Shiloh.

Grant was fighting rumors of his drunkeness and Sherman had recently been labeled crazy. With his problems, Sherman had been removed from command of the Army of the Ohio and replaced by Don Carlos Buell, whose command comprised the re-enforcements mentioned by Schafer. Buell considered his command independent, and would spend the rest of his life taking credit for the victory at Shiloh. [The big loser of Shiloh, apart from those who lost their lives, was Lew Wallace, but his experience led to Ben-Hur.]

At the time of Shiloh, Grant was going after railroads, not armies, and was caught by surprise at Shiloh by Albert Sidney Johnston, who was the number two ranking general in the Confederate army (ahead of Lee). Johnston was killed in the battle, the highest ranking general officer killed during the Civil War. His death did not help the Confederates.

As to --Sherman had been dismissive of repeated reports of a nearby Confederate threat. --, Sherman's earlier removal had been in large part because he saw Confederate threats everywhere, and he was likely overcompenating at Shiloh by his previous "paranoia."

It's not clear that Grant, during the Civil War, felt that a big military victory would end things. Lee, on the other hand, prior to Gettysburg in the May June 1863 time, sold just such an idea to the Confederate leadership. And MacKinlay Kantor laid out just such a hypothetical ending to the Civil War, based on a Union loss at Vicksburg (through the death of Grant) and a Union disaster at Gettysburg.

More on Lew Wallace, Shiloh, and Cincinnati


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