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Today in the American Civil War

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  • paul krugman highlighted this too on his blog, a bit less hot-button than his articles usually are, heh heh.

    Mar 31 7:56 am Mar 31 7:56 am 40

    The Road to Five Forks

    Today in my Civil War obsession: some readers may recall that I’m a big U.S. Grant admirer; the scene at Appomattox, where the dashing cavalier Lee surrendered to the stumpy, grimy Grant, marks the coming of the modern era. I also find the campaign that led to that moment fascinating. And that campaign began in earnest 150 years ago today.

    What happened was that Grant sent a force around Lee’s right, to threaten his lines of communication. What strikes me on reading accounts of how this played out are two things. First, Grant really was wasting no time — he moved as soon as the weather permitted, and actually a bit early. If you read the linked piece, you see that Union cavalry had to make heroic efforts simply to move across the flooded landscape, building corduroy roads as it went.

    Second, we’re still talking about very hard fighting — as far as I can tell, precisely because Grant was aggressive about moving even in dubious weather. That temporarily left the Union cavalry in front facing a counterattack from a much larger force of Confederate infantry. The battle of Dinwiddie Court House was a nail-biting fighting retreat on the Union side, with heavy casualties all around.

    The next day, of course, the Union infantry came up, and things got decisive.


    Apr 1 8:27 am Apr 1 8:27 am 60

    Five Forks Day

    Whoops: almost forgot to do my followup to yesterday’s Dinwiddie Court House post.

    I am, again, a big U.S. Grant admirer. One interesting thing about his record as a general, which I don’t fully understand myself, is that he was more or less unique in that war in his ability to win decisively.

    Here’s what I mean: in the Civil War, by and large, even the bloodiest battles generally left both armies able to fight again. Soldiers would be mowed down in the thousands, some would flee in panic, but at the end of the day the losing side would limp away with its cohesion intact. In fact, often the army that ended up in possession of the field would take heavier casualties than the army that retreated.

    There were no doubt reasons for this. One obvious one was that rifles meant an end to the kind of saber-swinging cavalry pursuit that had turned defeat into destruction in previous wars.

    But Grant repeatedly succeeded in bagging whole armies: Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, and of course Appomattox. And for that matter the battle of Five Forks, fought 150 years ago today, was far more decisive than other Civil War engagements.

    The story on March 31 was that a Confederate counterattack against the cavalry leading Grant’s left hook around Lee’s defenses pushed the cavalry back, but failed to achieve anything decisive. The Confederates (under George Pickett) then pulled back to the crucial junction at Five Forks, where they were attacked both by the cavalry and by infantry pushing into the gap between Pickett and the rest of Lee’s army. There was a lot of fog-of-war confusion, with much of the infantry marching into empty space for a while, but eventually enough came to the right place to rout Pickett — and the lost units arrived in Pickett’s rear, effectively bagging a large part of his force.

    When report of the victory reached Grant, he asked an interesting question: How many prisoners? My guess is that he wanted a clear measure of two things: the reality of decisive victory, and the size of the force that had just been defeated. When he was told that there were thousands, he knew both that the just-beaten force wasn’t going to reappear on the battlefield and that Lee must have stripped his defensive lines to make that effort. So he ordered an attack all along the front.

    There’s a passage in Bruce Catton, I think, describing how one observer saw it: a line of twinkling lights in the pre-dawn darkness — Confederate rifles firing — then gaps appearing and spreading, and suddenly the whole line going dark.

    The war was almost over.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov


    • Yeah, Paul Krugman is ALWAYS my go to guy on the American Civil War!

      150 years ago today was the Battle of Sailor’s Creek (sometimes written Saylor’s Creek).

      Meade’s pursuit catches up with the rear guard of Lee’s retreating army. Union cavalry cuts off the tail end of Lee’s forces. Gordon’s corps is delayed when the trains get caught at the double bridges over Sayler’s Creek. Horatio Wright’s VIth Corps places 20 pieces of artillery on the Hillsman farm and shells the Confederates for 30 minutes before launching a 2 division attack. During the attack Union soldiers waved white handkerchiefs at the Rebels to tell them “It’s over. Give it up. No one more needs to die.” The Confederates refuse to take the offer and Sailor’s Creek turns into a savage hand to hand fight.

      The Confederates lose 7,700 men, including Richard Ewell, Custis Lee and Joe Kershaw.

      The Battle of Sailor's Creek Summary & Facts |
      “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
      Mark Twain


      • Unbelievable that Gen. Sheridan was only 34 years old when he commanded the cavalry against Gen. Lee. A young whippersnapper if ever was one.


        • Amazing to realize how young a LOT of these guys were. LTG Joe Wheeler, cavalry commander for the Army of Tennessee at Chattanooga through the rest of the war was 25.

          Olier Howard, eventual commander of the Army of the Tennessee was 33 when he took command fo that Army.

          In the 43rd NY, the Albany Rifles Drummer Boy Johnny Ahern was 15 when he enlisted in August 1861. He was 18 year old Captain Johnny Ahearn, commander of Company A in November 1864.
          “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
          Mark Twain


          • How good were these people and how did they make up for the lack of experience and seniority? Was it based on wealth, influence, and class?


            • Early on was all three of those having an influence.

              A big part of early assignment of comamnd was military experience, be it in the Mexican War, one of the Indian Campaigns, being a West Point graduate or a graduate of one of the many military academies in the South. Also militia service paid off.

              As the war wore on it was sheer proven ability, sometimes coupled with ambition, which lead to advancement.

              Sheridan was a Captian and the Army Quartermaster at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862. By September 1862 he is a Brigadier General of Volunteers and a division commander in the Army of the Cumberland, leading them succesfully at the Battle of Perryville in October.
              “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
              Mark Twain


              • 150 years ago today....

                The Battle of Appomattox Station.

                Meade's cavalry under Custer gets out ahead of Lee's Army and overruns the train guards covering the 4 commissary, ordnance and artillery trains at the station. Custer burns the ordnance and artillery trains.

                Custer sends the word back that he is astride Lee's route. Grant orders a force march that night and elements of 3 separate corps to get in front of Lee.

                Battle of Appomattox Station - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                Last edited by Albany Rifles; 08 Apr 15,, 16:08.
                “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
                Mark Twain


                • FIN

                  Griffin's V Corps slams the door on Robert E. Lee's attempt to make for Lynchburg as Gordon's corps is pushed back.

                  Lee sues for terms and Grant agrees to appoint commissioners.

                  They meet in the parlor in the home of Wilbur McLean and sign the surrender agreement.

                  Battle of Appomattox Court House - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                  PS: It was at this battle that Private Wilton Parmenter was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions.
                  “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
                  Mark Twain


                  • from the Economist. what, no re-tweet button?

                    The fall of Richmond and its effect upon English commerce

                    Our coverage of the end of America's civil war
                    Apr 22nd 1865 | United States

                    THE fall of Richmond is one of the most striking events of modern history. On the one side the great hopes of the Confederates, their equally great efforts, the sympathy they have gained in Europe: on the other side, the undaunted courage of the Federals, their refusal to admit, even to their imagination, the possibility of real failure,—their accumulating power, which for many weeks past has seemed to concentrate like a gathering cloud about the capital of their enemies, give to the real event the intense but melancholy interest that belongs to the catastrophe of a tragedy. It is impossible not to feel a sympathy with the Confederates. There is an attraction in vanquished gallantry which appeals to the good side of human nature. But every Englishman at least will feel a kind of personal sympathy with the victory of the Federals.

                    They have won, as an Englishman would have won, by obstinacy. They would not admit the possibility of real defeat; they did not know that they were beaten; or, to speak more accurately, they knew that though they seemed to be beaten they were not: they felt that they had in them latent elements of conclusive vigour which, in the end, they should bring out, though they were awkward and slow in so doing. We may alter, perhaps, to suit this event, the terms which, in one of the greatest specimens of English narrative, the great English historian describes on a memorable occasion the conduct of Rome. "But there are moments when rashness is wisdom, and it may be that this was one of them; panic did not for a moment unnerve the iron courage of the American democracy, and their resolute will striving beyond. its present power created, as is the law of our nature, the power which it required."

                    But leaving history to deal in a becoming manner with the imaginative aspect of this great event, let us look at its present aspect in a business-like manner. The details of it are yet uncertain, and any conclusive judgment on minute results would be absurd. But, as far as we know, what does it amount to, and what will be its result?

                    It used to be said that Richmond was not essential to the Confederacy; that it was a nominal and accidental capital; that it was not even the original capital; that Virginia was but an outside State in a Confederacy with a vast interior; that even if this superficial outwork was lost, the war could be indefinitely protracted; that the fall of this exterior fortification would have scarcely affected the resistance of the provinces, upon which everything depended, And at the outset of the war when these words were used, they were doubtless substantially true. Subsequent events have in many respects confirmed them, and have in few tended to contradict them.

                    But now the case is altered. The loss of an outer fortification does not impair the resisting faculty, when it is lost early in the day—when its defenders have not spent upon it the resources which are needful to defend the citadel. It still appears to be true, that if sometime since when the Confederacy, had three armies unbroken—when no hostile army had penetrated their interior—when their organisation was as yet intact, its Government had retired from Richmond, the war would not have ceased on the evacuation. The task of pursuing three armies retiring in a vast and friendly country by converging lines would certainly have been difficult, and might not have been successful. Loose bodies of insurgents, if such there were, would then have had large armies upon which to support their accessory operations. But now the Confederacy have no such armies. What Lee may have saved, what Johnston may still command, we do not know; but we may say without fear that they are incalculably less than the armies of the Confederacy a year ago, that they cannot maintain as compact bodies even a defensive and retiring conflict with the eager armies of the North.

                    But without organised armies, can the Confederates be defended by loose insurgents and guerilla warfare, acting alone and without support? We believe that history affords no countenance to such an idea. A guerilla warfare requires the aid either of disciplined forces or of inaccessible territory. The history of the Spanish war shows conclusively that the guerilla resistance of the nation would have been useless without the regular resistance of the English army under the Duke of Wellington; the Spaniards enabled him to effect more with fewer troops, but they did little themselves. A territory like Arabia, a mountain chain like the Caucasus, can be defended by a few bodies of men with little discipline as well as by many more with discipline. Nature does so much that any sort of human force is sufficient to complete it. But the territory of the Confederacy though vast is penetrable: it is not a fortress, it is only a battlefield : it is a country in which a martial population, aided by effective armies, may well resist an invading enemy; but it is also a country from which even the most martial population may be brushed off with ease by diffused and disciplined forces.

                    Even under the most favourable circumstances a guerilla warfare by a nation of slaveowners must have unusual difficulties. The slaves cannot be relied on as a native peasantry can be relied on. It is said that Sherman on his march through Georgia always had good information regularly brought by negroes. We do not vouch for this as a fact, but it illustrates our meaning as an example. It is impossible that the existence of a slave class, which is not a part of the nation, which requires to be kept down by the nation, should not always be an impediment to the rising of the nation; and especially so in this case, when the invading army proclaims liberty to those slaves. We cannot expect a protracted guerilla resistance from a nation which has neither an inaccessible territory, nor a regular army, nor an attached peasant population.

                    But if the Confederacy cannot long defend itself, if the civil war must soon come to an end, what will be its effect on us? The war itself disturbed as much in its origin and much by its continuance, will it also disturb us much by its cessation?

                    It is undeniable that the fall of Richmond, such as we have ascertained it to be, would have been of disastrous consequences to several branches of English commerce if it had happened six months ago. When cotton and its substitutes were weakly held at extravagant prices, the sudden occurrence of so great a catastrophe must have caused of itself many failures. So many slow and steady agencies all tending to produce a fall of price were then operating, that the addition of a single one of a striking nature might have produced lamentable results. A great panic in one class of articles would in a sensitive stale of the commercial world have produced a semi-panic in other articles. But now the case is different. Prices have greatly fallen. Whether they may have reached their lowest point exactly may lie argued, but they have fallen so low that no great further drop is possible or likely. Many weak holders have been cleared away, and the nominal price in consequence is firmer and more real than the nominal price of six months since. The peculiar circumstances affecting cotton, we explained in an elaborate article last week. We showed that even on the assumption that "the civil war in America must be near its close," there was no ground for thinking that cotton would experience a further fall, but rather a probability that the present fall had been too great and too sudden to be permanent. In fact, as so often happens, the effect of the defeat of the South has been discounted; the result of the expectation has been as great, if not greater, than the result of the event.

                    There is another circumstance of great importance. The world is getting "short of clothes," and especially of good clothes. When the war broke out great stores of cotton goods were found to be lying in warehouses at Manchester and elsewhere, and many persons were eager to raise the common cry of over-production: they fancied there was something anomalous and out of place in so vast an accumulation. But Mr Cobden, with that real perception of the facts of commerce which characterised his mind, immediately said, "No, there is no unnecessary accumulation, except in one or two particular markets, as India and China, and in other exceptional cases; we have not more goods on hand than we ought to have." In reality, a very considerable accumulation of stored manufactures is an attendant condition, an inevitable consequence, of the present vast and delicate division of labour. When everybody is working for everybody, everybody is injured by the mischances of everybody. An English middle class consumer is fed and clothed by an immense multiplicity of labourers; their numbers are considerable, and they are of several kinds. If any one important species of these labourers is impeded, we risk the loss of some article of prime necessity. But we insure against it. We keep a stock of each durable article so considerable that we have much to last for a long time, even if the means of producing it have by some casualty suddenly stopped. Some people say the world ought always to have "two years' stock" of clothes on hand, and now we bare nothing like it.

                    The effect of this will be very remarkable. When the American war broke out we had two years' stock on hand, and we lived on that till other sources of supply were opened and made effectual. The existence of that supply insured us then; its non-existence will insure us now. As we return to a usual and normal state of things, we shall tend to recur to our regular and habitual accumulation. We have not only now to clothe the world—we have to clothe it and something more. We have to make up our stock; to again create the guarantee fund, which shall insure us against any new calamities—against some deprivation of supply as sudden and as unlikely as an American civil war would have seemed five years ago. At that time any one who had prophesied the actual history of those five years would have been deemed a lunatic: our stored resources saved us then, and we must store them up again now to use them in like manner.

                    And this additional demand will gradually carry off an additional supply—especially if, as is likely, the clothes made with cheap material be better than the clothes made with dear material. There will be a capital demand for cotton and other goods, if once it is understood that the end is attained, that the bottom is reached, that the trader nearest the consumer—the small shopkeeper—had better supply himself at once. The small shops of the world are now only half supplied; if they once take to supplying themselves, the demand will be great.

                    As far, therefore, as the producing power of America is concerned, we do not think its revival, even if it should occur very rapidly, would derange our market, or affect us except beneficially. Nor, as far as its consuming power is concerned, can we cannot expect much from the conclusion of the war. Some sanguine persons fancy that we shall at once have a vast trade with the United States the moment they are reunited—the moment the war stops. But there is no ground for so thinking either as respects the South or the North. Some additional trade with both, of course, there will be, but not enough to affect Lombard street—to alter the demand for the capital of England. First, as to the North, its tariff cripples to an incredible extent all commerce with it. It has been spending largely and recklessly. It has been borrowing largely and recklessly. It has been misusing its currency. The repentance after these errors will be a time of strait and difficulty, and though under good management its splendid national resources are quite sufficient to cope with this difficulty, yet the difficulty is real and considerable. The additional immediate trade which we shall have with the North will not be of the first magnitude—will not affect the money market.

                    Nor will the trade with the South. The South is disorganised, and must long be disorganised. What the fate of its peculiar civilisation may be we cannot yet say, for there are no data, and any conclusion is only "one guess among many," one notion a little better perhaps than others, but without any solid ground of evidence. But so much is evident that great changes are in store for the South,—that it must pass through a social revolution,—that during the revolution it will not buy as it used to buy,—that after the revolution tastes will have changed, and it will not buy what it used to buy.

                    On the whole, therefore, the conclusion is, that though the catastrophe of the American war seems likely to happen more suddenly and more strikingly than could have been expected, yet its principal effect will have been already anticipated, and it will have less influence on prices and transactions than many events of less considerable magnitude.
                    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov


                    • Good find

                      That the British banks helped fund the Union is without question. And there is a bit of smarmy English superior attitude in the article.

                      That said, it does miss the mark about what the future held.

                      This article spells out that the withdrawal of so many Southerners from Congress opened the doors for pent up demand to support westward expansion which was sorely needed. Yes, the South suffered for decades. However the economic engine of the North generated tremendous power which would propel the US to a player on the international stage within 35 years.


                      Civil War, Economic Impact of (Issue)
                      Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History | 1999 | 700+ words | Copyright
                      CIVIL WAR, ECONOMIC IMPACT OF (ISSUE)

                      The economic consequences of the American Civil War (1861–1865) are largely due to Northern control of the federal government during and for several decades after the War. During the sectional debates over the tariff and the expansion of slavery that characterized the thirty years before the War, the North had been forced to forgo or compromise several of its national economic policy objectives because of Southern opposition and the strong position the Southern states held in the Senate. As soon as the Southern states seceded and the legislators resigned their seats in Congress, the legislators from the North and West began enacting this delayed agenda, while simultaneously prosecuting the War. Northern victory in the War insured their continuing control of the federal government and implementation of their economic policies.

                      There were four pieces of legislation that passed during the Civil War which were critical to Northern economic development during the decades after the War. The Morrill Tariff of 1861 raised rates to 20 percent on average, ending more than thirty years of declining rates. Funding for three transcontinental railroads was enacted in the Transcontinental Railroad Act. The Morrill Land Grant Act (1862) established agricultural and mechanical colleges by allotting each state that remained in the Union 30,000 Acres of land for each member of Congress. The National Bank Act of 1863 created a set of standards for the banking system. Finally, the Homestead Act (1862) provided 160 Acres (a quarter section) in western territories free to anyone who settled on it for five years and declared their intention to become a citizen. Each of these policies profoundly shaped the development of the American economy for the rest of the century.

                      Another Civil War development with powerful implications for the nation's economy was the wartime devastation visited on the South. The war had been mostly fought in the South and much of its wealth had been destroyed. In South Carolina before the war, for instance, there were 965,000 hogs. After the surrender of the Confederate Army in 1865 at Appomatox, the hog population in South Carolina had dropped to 150,000. Confederate bonds and currency were now worthless, depriving the region of a great proportion of its wealth. Emancipation of the slaves also destroyed a large part of the South's capital, as well as creating the need for a new labor system. (The slaves accounted for the lion's share of capital investment in the South, more expensive than the very land.) The war had destroyed virtually all the banks in the South. There was little capital available to finance reconstruction.

                      By 1877, when Reconstruction ended with the withdrawal of the Union Army, native white rule returned in every former Confederate state. The South, however, remained largely agricultural, producing staple crops for northern factories or for export. Economic recovery in the South was slow. Cotton did not reach its 1859 level of production until 1879. As cotton production increased, however, the price fell. Tobacco, the other major cash crop in the South, followed a similar pattern. The sharecropping system that replaced slavery had few incentives for soil conservation innovation or the cultivation of new crops. The region remained capital poor and grew slowly in population. In 1860 the population of the slave slates was 1l,133,361 compared to 12,288,020 in 1870, an increase of only about 10 percent, compared with a 29 percent increase for the rest of the country.

                      The South failed to attract many immigrants after the War because of limited economic opportunities. Its reliance on staple crop agriculture and slowly growing population did not create demand for expanded infrastructure, one of the factors driving the rapid expansion of the national economy outside the former Confederate states. For at least two generations after the Civil War the South remained predominantly agricultural and largely outside the industrial expansion of the national economy.

                      The Compromise of 1877 which ended Reconstruction solidified Northern control of Congress. This control led to ever higher tariffs, reaching an average of 57 percent with the Dingle Tariff of 1897, and a continuation of government subsidies for railroad expansion. Behind the protective wall of these tariffs U.S. industry grew and agriculture expanded ever westward to feed the growing populations of the industrial cities. Northern and Midwestern populations grew much faster than that of the South and the expansion of the nation's railroad system tied the two regions ever more closely together. A large part of the industrial expansion of the immediate post Civil War years was based on connecting the industrial northeast with the farm and grazing area of the Midwest and plains states and completing the transcontinental railroads. Railroad mileage in the U.S. doubled between 1865 and 1873 and increased by an additional 50 percent between 1873 and 1881. Freight carried increased from 2.16 billion ton/miles in 1865 to 7.48 in 1873 and 16.06 in 1881. The iron and steel industry was one direct beneficiary of the expansion of the railroad system. Steel production increased from 19,643 long tons in 1867 to 198,796 in 1873 and 1,588,314 in 1881. The expansion of steel led to comparable increases in mining and other basic industries.

                      The North and Midwest attracted growing numbers of immigrants, drawn by the promise of economic opportunity and inexpensive land. The growing population spurred construction of housing and infrastructure, which in turn attracted more immigrants in a circular process that continued until the Panic of 1893, which slowed the economy. The economy after the Civil War was initially driven by the construction of railroads connecting the industrial communities of the northeast and the agricultural regions of the Midwest and plains. In 1886, the railroads standardized the gauge (width) of the track, bringing the South into a national railway system. As it matured the industrial area expanded to include communities in the Midwest with an expansion of agricultural regions further west. The economy that developed after the Civil War was still sharply divided regionally along the same lines as the antebellum economy had been.

                      See also: Civil War (Economic Causes of), Homestead Act

                      FURTHER READING
                      Ayers, Edward L. The Promise of the New South: Life after Reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

                      Higgs, Robert.The Transformation of the American Economy, 1865–1914. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971

                      Jones, Howard Mumford. The Age of Energy: Varieties of American Experience, 1865-1915. New York: Viking, 1971.

                      Vatter, H. C. The Drive to Industrial Maturity: The U.S. Economy, 1860-1914. New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.

                      Wright, Gavin. Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy Since the Civil War. New York: Basic Books, 1982.
                      “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
                      Mark Twain


                      • Originally posted by Blademaster View Post
                        How good were these people and how did they make up for the lack of experience and seniority? Was it based on wealth, influence, and class?
                        Many older generals didn't succeed because they were prisoners of their own experience. The evolution in technology meant that old tactics might not work. Younger/newer leaders weren't saddled down with experience, and therefore had to learn as the war progressed, allowing them to outpace their older leaders.
                        "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3


                        • resurrecting an old thread to wish everyone a Happy Appomattox Day!
                          There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov


                          • Originally posted by astralis View Post
                            resurrecting an old thread to wish everyone a Happy Appomattox Day!
                            Damn I bullshit pretty, don't I Eric!
                            “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
                            Mark Twain