Butchery and Burial (or, Sympathy for McClellan)

J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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4 Responses

  1. BlaiseP says:

    Twice as many men died of disease than gunshot in the Civil War.  The American Civil War grew beyond anyone’s ability to contain it.  This seems true of most wars.   The technology of mechanized warfare always overwhelms the ability to deal with its consequences but never seems to inhibit its planners.   I strongly disagree with those who say the Civil War was fought with antique tactics:  it was a thoroughly modern war for its time, planned and executed by educated men with scruples and a working knowledge of history.

    The vast ossuary at Douaumont has alcoves where the visitor can see the skeletal remains of over 130,000 unidentified men from both sides of Verdun.   To put this in perspective, that’s about half of the 300,000 men who died there in the roughly 300 days and nights of that battle.   26 million artillery rounds were fired, that’s six rounds per square meter of battlefield.

    The American Civil War was the warmup exercises for the machine gun and the howitzer and trench warfare.   If technology reduced the men who fought it to ciphers, the staggering-about and paralysis were at General Headquarters, not on the battlefield.   Grant and Sherman understood the problem implicitly and dealt with it ruthlessly.   Read Sherman’s letter to the citizens of Atlanta:

    Now that war comes home to you, you feel very different. You depreciate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, and moulded shells and shot, to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of hundreds of thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes, and under the Government of their inheritance. But these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect and early success.

    War is said to dehumanize those who fight.   I smile grimly to hear such moaning and see such wringing of hands.   War is man’s natural state.   Peace is the illusion.   If war has become the province of the machine, ’twas ever so, from the time of Alexander’s longer sarissa spear to the drones buzzing over today’s battlefield.   Technology is first a toy, then a tool, then a weapon.


  2. Kim says:

    Given a different South, Meade might have been able to win the war for the Confederacy.

    As it was? Gettysburg, the propaganda campaign…Report