The Army of the Potomac

Tuesday, October 22, AD 2013

Army of the Potomac

Army of the Potomac, advancing army,

Alloy of a dozen disparate, alien States,

City-boy, farm-hand, bounty-man, first volunteer,

Old regular, drafted recruit, paid substitute,

Men who fought through the war from First Bull Run,

And other men, nowise different in look or purpose,

Whom the first men greeted at first with a ribald cry

“Here they come!  Two hundred dollars and a ka-ow!”

Rocks from New England and hickory-chunks from the West,

Bowery boy and clogging Irish adventurer,

Germans who learnt their English under the shells

Or didn’t have time to learn it before they died.

Confused, huge weapon, forged from such different metals,

Misused by unlucky swordsmen till you were blunt

And then reforged with anguish and bloody sweat

To be blunted again by one more unlucky captain

Against the millstone of Lee.

 

 

Good stallion,

Ridden and ridden against a hurdle of thorns

By uncertain rider after uncertain rider.

The rider fails and you shiver and catch your breath,

They plaster your wounds and patch up your broken knees,

And then, just as you know the grip of your rider’s hands

And begin to feel at home with his horseman’s tricks,

Another rider comes with a different seat,

And lunges you at the bitter hurdle again,

And it beats you again–and it all begins from the first,

The patching of wounds, the freezing in winter camps,

The vain mud-marches, the diarrhea, the wastage,

The grand reviews, the talk in the newspapers,

The sour knowledge that you were wasted again,

Not as Napoleons waste for a victory

But blindly, unluckily–

until at last

After long years, at fish-hook Gettysburg,

The blade and the millstone meet and the blade holds fast.

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Not Enemies, But Friends

Tuesday, October 22, AD 2013

When writing about the Civil War I always marvel that it did not inflict mortal harm on this Republic.  That it did not do so, was because many good men and women, on both sides after the War, lived up to the prophetic words of Lincoln, uttered at the end of his First Inaugural Address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

This was all put nicely in a conversation that Douglas Southall Freeman, the great Civil War historian, had with his father Walker Freeman, a Confederate veteran who had served in the Army of Northern Virginia, while Douglas was writing his magisterial four volume R.E. Lee.

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24 Responses to Not Enemies, But Friends

  • The War For Southern Independence was a war fought by the freedom loving and small goverment loving South and the big government communist leaning North.
    No amount of hand shaking and “can’t we just all get along” will cover that fact up.
    Our constitutional republic was destroyed by Lincoln and the Northern radicals. The true nature of the war was demonstrated by the “reconstruction” of the South after the war; which was the largest social engineering attempt in the history of the country.
    Now we have Obama, who is the spiritual embodiement of Lincoln and the War, part two is now underway. We can see the edge of the social engineering that is being ramped up that will make the War look like a walk in the park.

  • I think I’ll just step back now . . .

  • To paraphrase Mr. Ward, “the better angels of our nature” have gone AWOL.

  • “The War For Southern Independence was a war fought by the freedom loving and small goverment loving South and the big government communist leaning North.”

    Ah, there do exist groups on both sides who still attempt to refight the War. Randy, with his neo-Confederate absurdity of Lincoln as a near Communist dictator, has his contemporary mirror image counterparts on the Left of the Democrat party who attempt to work “Confederate” and “secession” into their increasingly hysterical denunciations of the Party of Lincoln.

    http://reason.com/blog/2013/10/14/hertzberg-republicans-are-neo-confederat

    These groups have nothing to do with the Civil War and everything to do with the frequently banal and squalid level of contemporary political discourse.

  • What Donald wrote.

  • Randy, Randy, Randy.

    Sigh.

    [Shaking my head.]

  • And yet… the Late Unpleasantness *did* fundamentally alter the Constitutional relationship between formerly sovereign states and the federal government; and greatly expanded the view that we are fundamentally a federal nation in which states are mere subservient political subdivisions of the federal government, a view which never had universal traction before the war.

    Lincoln was no communist, however, he was no saintly figure despite contemporary hagiography of the Left. He was dedicated to forcefully maintaining the Union, and did many extra-legal things to accomplish his goal.

  • If you think ‘Union at any cost” is a viable position, Lincoln’s actions are good and necessary. If you accept that the States were sovereign entities after the Revolution, and voluntarily entered into a pact from which they maintained the authority to remove themselves, then Lincoln’s actions are something altogether different.

  • Randy: You are Abraham Lincoln’s constitutional posterity. Lincoln was a statesman who believed in the human being’s immortal soul, the free will, conscience and in government of the people, for the people and by the people.

    Obama is a politician who finds out which way the people are going and gets in front. Although Obama is George Washington’s constitutional posterity, Obama wants as many of Washington’s constitutional posterity as possible to be eliminated through abortion. Obama wants Washington’s and Lincoln’s constitutional posterity to bear the cost of Obamacare’s manipulative and social engineering experiments to eliminate government of the people, for the people and by the people by eliminating the people.

    Abortion is a preemptive war against the human race and Obama is in front.

    “the freedom loving South” did not love freedom enough to acknowledge the sovereign personhood of the slave.

    Tom: “sovereign entities” do not enslave other human beings. Denying the slaves their freedom eliminated any such sovereignty of the southern states. The Union soldiers fought that “government of the people, for the people and by the people shall not perish from the earth.”

  • The respect between foes helped grease the wheels of reconciliation. So much so that “Fighting Joe” Wheeler donned the blue uniform during the Spanish American War, to the bemusement of his Confederate colleagues, who ribbed him:

    “While attending the hundredth anniversary celebration of the U.S. Military Academy (West Point, New York) in 1902, Wheeler approached the old West Point hotel, where his Confederate comrades James Longstreet and Edward Porter Alexander were seated on the porch. At the festivities Wheeler wore his dress uniform of his most recent rank, that of a general in the U.S. Army. Longstreet recognized him coming near, and reportedly said, ‘Joe, I hope that Almighty God takes me before he does you, for I want to be within the gates of hell to hear Jubal Early cuss you in the blue uniform.'”

    http://www.geni.com/people/Maj-General-Joseph-Fightin-Joe-Wheeler-CSA-and-USA-post-Civil-War/6000000010393036891

  • Mary,

    I apologize. I became upset when I saw Washington and Obama in the same sentence. So, I edited the sentence.

    Obama is George Washington’s horse’s posterior, with apologies to the horse.

  • During an engagement in Cuba, to the amusement of his troops, Wheeler yelled out: “We’ve got the damn Yankees, I mean the Spaniards, on the run!”

  • Lincoln was a friend of Marx and Lincoln’s administration corresponded with Marx during the war. Marx loved Lincoln and the war and worked in Europe to keep European countries from recognizing the South. Marx, better than most realized what was really happening and approved it all. Lincoln was not a communist like Mao or Stalin, but he was a forerunner of them. A man that starts an unnecessary war that killed almost a million people, simply because he wanted a more powerful central government is not a christian, no matter what he claims. But he is in every way equal to Stalin and Mao on that one point.
    Lincoln was as big a liar as Obama is now. This fact can be discovered by reading his speaches and writtings and comparing one to the others.

  • “Lincoln was a friend of Marx”

    Untrue. Lincoln probably did not know that Marx existed except, perhaps, as a sometime foreign correspondent for Horace Greeley’s Tribune.

    “Lincoln’s administration corresponded with Marx during the war”

    No. Marx sent a letter addressed to Lincoln congratulating him on fighting the war successfully. It was given to Charles Adams US Ambassador to the Court of Saint James. Adams gave a pro forma response:

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/iwma/documents/1864/lincoln-letter.htm

    “Marx, better than most realized what was really happening and approved it all.”

    Nope, Marx and his view of the Civil War was as twisted as his views of most events which he interpreted through his erroneous expectation of Communist revolutions in the advanced economies of the world. The Communist revolutions in Russia and China would have shocked him, since he expected the revolutions to occur in Western Europe and the US.

    “A man that starts an unnecessary war that killed almost a million people, simply because he wanted a more powerful central government is not a christian, no matter what he claims.”

    Lincoln did not start the War, the secessionists did in order to preserve slavery. He did not fight the War to establish a more powerful central government but to preserve the Union. After the War the federal government shrank back to almost its diminutive size before the War.

    “Lincoln was as big a liar”

    I can think of no American statesman more truthful than Lincoln, except Washington.

  • Donald, if the South wanted to simply retain the right to have slaves, all it had to do was to remain in the union; Union: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”
    The South was tired of paying the way for the central government. The South paid about 75% of the taxes to support the national government and that was reason enough to leave the union. When Lincoln was asked why didn’t he just let the South go, he answered; “where would we get the money to run the government”.
    The South certainly did not start the war; does anyone think the South wanted to be invaded by the North. Lincoln raised an army and invaded the South. The South did not invade the North and the South had no designs on the Northern states.
    Lincoln used the excuse of Ft. Sumter to start the war, but the letter exists, written by Lincoln, where he admits that by resupplying the fort, he knew the Southerners would remove the union from the South Carolina fort.
    Lincoln did not care for blacks and was part of the movement to remove blacks before the war and continued his planning to remove them until just before he was shot. The only time Lincoln met with blacks in the white house was when he asked the visitors to voluntary remove themselves from the country.
    Lincoln was a communist by the modern def of the name in one point; he was willing to kill citizens of his own country to gain his desires. If Lincoln had not raised an army and invaded the South, there would have been no war. That is a fact that no one can dispute. Therefore Lincoln started the war.

  • “Donald, if the South wanted to simply retain the right to have slaves, all it had to do was to remain in the union; Union: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.””

    Of course the South seceded over slavery Jefferson Davis said precisely that in his first message to the Confederate Congress:

    “Emboldened by success, the theater of agitation and aggression against the clearly expressed constitutional rights of the Southern States was transferred to the Congress; Senators and Representatives were sent to the common councils of the nation, whose chief title to this distinction consisted in the display of a spirit of ultra fanaticism, and whose business was not “to promote the general welfare or insure domestic tranquillity,” but to awaken the bitterest hatred against the citizens of sister States by violent denunciation of their institutions; the transaction of public affairs was impeded by repeated efforts to usurp powers not delegated by the Constitution, for the purpose of impairing the security of property in slaves, and reducing those States which held slaves to a condition of inferiority. Finally a great party was organized for the purpose of obtaining the administration of the Government, with the avowed object of using its power for the total exclusion of the slave States from all participation in the benefits of the public domain acquired by all the States in common, whether by conquest or purchase; of surrounding them entirely by States in which slavery should be prohibited; of thus rendering the property in slaves so insecure as to be comparatively worthless, and thereby annihilating in effect property worth thousands of millions of dollars. This party, thus organized, succeeded in the month of November last in the election of its candidate for the Presidency of the United States.

    In the meantime, under the mild and genial climate of the Southern States and the increasing care and attention for the wellbeing and comfort of the laboring class, dictated alike by interest and humanity, the African slaves had augmented in number from about 600,000, at the date of the adoption of the constitutional compact, to upward of 4,000,000. In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts but with careful religious instruction. Under the supervision of a superior race their labor had been so directed as not only to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of the wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people; towns and cities had sprung into existence, and had rapidly increased in wealth and population under the social system of the South; the white population of the Southern slaveholding States had augmented from about 1,250,000 at the date of the adoption of the Constitution to more than 8,500,000 in 1860; and the productions of the South in cotton, rice, sugar, and tobacco, for the full development and continuance of which the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable, had swollen to an amount which formed nearly three-fourths of the exports of the whole United States and had become absolutely necessary to the wants of civilized man. With interests of such overwhelming magnitude imperiled, the people of the Southern States were driven by the conduct of the North to the adoption of some course of action to avert the danger with which they were openly menaced. With this view the legislatures of the several States invited the people to select delegates to conventions to be held for the purpose of determining for themselves what measures were best adapted to meet so alarming a crisis in their history.”

  • “The South paid about 75% of the taxes to support the national government and that was reason enough to leave the union. When Lincoln was asked why didn’t he just let the South go, he answered; “where would we get the money to run the government”.”

    Lincoln never said it, the South did not pay 75% of the taxes and the tariff of 1857 that was in force in 1861 was the lowest in decades. The North had no difficulty in financing its war effort, while the Confederacy quickly experienced ruinous inflation.

  • “The South certainly did not start the war; does anyone think the South wanted to be invaded by the North.”

    It was not the North that fired on Fort Sumter. It was one nation and could not be dissolved by the unilateral action of individual states.

  • “Lincoln used the excuse of Ft. Sumter to start the war, but the letter exists, written by Lincoln, where he admits that by resupplying the fort, he knew the Southerners would remove the union from the South Carolina fort.”

    Lincoln informed the Governor of South Carolina that Fort Sumter was going to be resupplied.

    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/lincoln4/1:505?rgn=div1;view=fulltext

    This precipitated the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter that solidified Northern opinion to the necessity of fighting to preserve the Union. The attack on Fort Sumter was an amazingly idiotic move by the Confederates, that precipitated a War that they were ill-prepared to fight. War fever in the South caused a fight to be picked that they could not win, as succinctly pointed out in the scene linked below from Gone With the Wind:

    http://www.anyclip.com/movies/gone-with-the-wind/rhetts-opinion-on-war/#!quotes/

  • “Lincoln did not care for blacks and was part of the movement to remove blacks before the war and continued his planning to remove them until just before he was shot.”

    Untrue. Lincoln was in favor of voluntary colonization but dropped it when it became clear that blacks were not interested.

    As for Lincoln and blacks, Frederick Douglass is eloquent on that subject:

    “I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen. Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless. Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined.

    Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the Negro, it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery. The man who could say, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war shall soon pass away, yet if God wills it continue till all the wealth piled by two hundred years of bondage shall have been wasted, and each drop of blood drawn by the lash shall have been paid for by one drawn by the sword, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether,” gives all needed proof of his feeling on the subject of slavery. He was willing, while the South was loyal, that it should have its pound of flesh, because he thought that it was so nominated in the bond; but farther than this no earthly power could make him go.”

  • “The only time Lincoln met with blacks in the white house was when he asked the visitors to voluntary remove themselves from the country.”

    No that is quite incorrect. Lincoln met with Frederick Douglass on several occasions to discuss Emancipation and the enlistment of black troops.

    http://www.mrlincolnandfreedom.org/inside.asp?ID=69&subjectID=4

    Lincoln met black petitioners frequently in the White House and on July 4, 1864 attended a fund raiser held on the White House lawn to raise funds for a Catholic Church for blacks in Washington:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/02/10/july-4-1864/

  • “Lincoln was a communist by the modern def of the name in one point; he was willing to kill citizens of his own country to gain his desires.”

    No, he was willing to fight to preserve his country, and a majority of the people of the nation joined him in that fight.

  • Donald, since you believe what President Jefferson Davis said in his speech, do you believe the rest of what he said?
    Frederick Douglass was the black that Lincoln invited to leave the country.
    You have bought in to the Lincoln myth, lock stock and barrel, as I once did, even though I am a Southerner. But I began to do research on my own about twenty five years ago and I discovered that history had been rewritten by liberal historians and that Lincoln had been made into the liberal god. I invite you to get outside of your studies and look at the research that has been done outside of the liberal bubble. You may find your assumptions have been mistaken, like I did.
    I could take the time to refute your assertions, but you seem to have your mind made up, so you must discover your errors on your own; or not. It matters not to me.

  • “Donald, since you believe what President Jefferson Davis said in his speech, do you believe the rest of what he said?”
    No, much of it was self serving rubbish. In acknowledging that the South was fighting to preserve slavery however, he was merely acknowledging what everyone at the time admitted. It was only after the War that the myth was invented that the War was not all about slavery.

    “Frederick Douglass was the black that Lincoln invited to leave the country.”

    Untrue. Where do you get this rot?

    “You have bought in to the Lincoln myth, lock stock and barrel, as I once did, even though I am a Southerner.”

    No, rather I actually understand the history of the period and you clearly do not, judging from the factual errors you have regurgitated.

    “I invite you to get outside of your studies and look at the research that has been done outside of the liberal bubble.”
    Please. As faithful readers of this blog well know, I inhabit no liberal bubble in any form. My politics are so conservative that you are probably pink by comparison. However, I have a deep love of history and I will allow no one on this blog to twist history for political ends.

August 17, 1861: Birth of the Army of the Potomac

Wednesday, August 17, AD 2011

On August 17, 1861 the Union military departments of the Shenandoah, Washington, and Northeastern Virginia were merged, and  the Army of the Potomac formed, the hard luck Army that experienced defeat after defeat until its great victory at Gettysburg, endured the meat grinder Overland Campaign of 1864 , carried out the siege of Petersburg of 1864-65 and ultimately triumphed with the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomatox.  Stephen Vincent Benet  in his epic poem John Brown’s Body  pays tribute to the Army:

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6 Responses to August 17, 1861: Birth of the Army of the Potomac

  • In terms of services rendered to and sacrifice for the nation, next to Nathanael Greene’s Continental Army in the Southern colonies, the AotP is easily the least-appreciated army in American history.

    A lot like Muhammad Ali, the boys in the Potomac could take a lot of punches but still remain standing. I’d argue its greatest victory was the Wilderness, when it kept advancing after absorbing a Chancellorsville-like hammer blow from the indomitable Marse Robert.

    In many ways, it was the mirror-image of the even more hard-luck CSA Army of Tennessee: brave men cursed with bad luck, worse timing and mostly indifferent-to-awful commanders.

    I’m glad Bruce Catton had a chance to talk with those Michigan Potomac vets growing up–his trilogy was brilliant.

  • These laid the world away; poured out the red
    Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
    Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
    That men call age; and those who would have been,
    Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

    Blow, bugles, blow! — Rupert Brooke

    DP: Do you imagine Catton talked with some of Custer’s cavalry veterans? He/they were victorious from the third day at Gettysburg (beat J.E.B. Stuart) to Appomattox.

  • T. Shaw:

    Quite possibly so–I remember an intro to one of his books explaining how the AotP veterans who lived in his stretch of rural Michigan were the catalyst for his interest in the history of the War. It’s not impossible that at least one of them might have been one of Custer’s Wolverines.

    Good catch, too–not too many people remember the cavalry battle of the third day, and its significance. Though I don’t know that the Union cavalry was quite that dominant. Yellow Tavern and the thrashing of Dahlgren’s raid showed the Rebel cavalry was still pretty solid.

    The Union was lucky that Forrest wasn’t transferred to the East, I’ll say that. The Devil on Horseback was a menace until late March 1865, when he was finally defeated by a Union cavalry force that had learned all the lessons he’d taught them for three years.

  • Dale, I became forever entranced by Civil War history when I read in Junior High Catton’s: Mr. Lincoln’s Army, Glory Road and A Stillness at Appomattox.

  • DP: See if you can find in your library a book called Custer Victorious. I don’t have the author’s name here. I re-read it in the past year or so.

    Before Gettysburg Union infantry would taunt, “I never saw a dead cavalryman.” Until Sheridan and Custer, the Union infantry generals were (if that’s possible) worse than the infantry generals.

    Custer’s immediate (for a time) superior Kilpatrick, nicknamed Killcavalry, on several occasions nearly got Custer and his entire division killed or captured.

    Anyways, I’m eagerly awaiting Rick Atkinson’s third book on the ETO. I’m no judge, but the first two were (to me) excellent. This 7 December it will be 70 years . . .

  • T. Shaw:

    I’ll look it up–sounds good. Custer also had some pretty high casualties, but he led from the front, so the Wolverines didn’t grumble so much.

    In the West, James H. Wilson was the Union cavalry commander who finally digested all the “memos” Forrest sent the Yankees. His raid through the industrial centers of Alabama in 1865 was described by a modern historian as “the Yankee Blitzkrieg.” Even Forrest couldn’t stop him, though in fairness to the Confederate commander his forces were rag, tag and bobtail by that point.