The Civil War gave birth to a new and different American Republic, to "a new birth of freedom" and a government "of the people, by the people, for the people" dedicated to "the proposition that all men are created equal." But it was a hard fought, bloody war, a tragic struggle between Americans. This book takes a critical look at the war itself and its leaders, for the most part from a tactical perspective, or how the battles were fought, but also from a strategic perspective, that is, why the battles were fought.
Ten years before the birth of the new nation in 1779, following the battle aboard the Bonhomme Richard that would forever secure his name in American history, John Paul Jones wrote, "Humanity cannot but recoil and lament that war should be capable of producing such fatal consequences." He went on to add, "A person must have been an eyewitness to form a just idea of the tremendous scenes of carnage, wreck, and ruin which every where appeared.
The men of the North and South eighty-two years later, who had yet to form an idea of what to expect, rallied around their respective flags, the symbols of their cause. Young men, and some old, whether out of loyalty to state and country, family, or military duty, gathered from the hills and from the plains to answer the call. The Battle-Cry of Freedom, the 1861 rallying song of the North by George Frederick Root and its southern version, drew them into the recruiting centers in unprecedented numbers.
They had their reasons, excitement, pressure from family and friends, the thrill of danger, and even the anticipation of carnage. Military action had a sense of glamour about it. It was to a romantic adventure that fife and drum called. For some, the idea of war was seductive. War was also the great equalizer of class and position, even of language. There was the fear of missing out and, after the war, having to confront question of "What did you do?" The driving force was solidarity with one's fellows and response to the martial spirit that permeated the land. War is "something that no one can believe until he personally hears the grapeshot exploding toward him, until he wipes from his own body the blood of a wounded man, until he follows his commanding officer knowing that there is no longer any protection from the enemy's bullets except God's grace." Among one's family and friends and in the safety of one's community, it took real courage to resist. It was the same for elected representatives. It took the courage of a Lincoln to challenge the tide of emotion. How unthinkable, if not disgraceful, it was to be contrary to the national quest. To this day, no one can oppose a war, any war, without being charged with betraying one's country and those fighting and dying in its cause. To oppose a war or oppose continuation of a war is to dishonor the fallen, or so it is said. If one truly believes that it to be a wrong war, nothing could be more nonsensical; and the right to object...