June 30, 2013

150th Anniversary of Gettysburg

I've only been to two classic battlefields: Waterloo and Gettysburg. 

Waterloo is fascinating in its compactness, and in the drama of the two greatest generals of the age finally squaring off. It also had the great advantage of being the last battle of it age.

Napoleon's escape from Elba is one of the wildest yarns ever. The following headlines are said to have appeared in the French newspaper Moniteur in March of 1815. 
March 9   The Monster has escaped from his place of banishment.
March 10  The Corsican Ogre has landed at Cape Juan
March 11  The Tiger has shown himself at Gap. The Troops are advancing on all sides to arrest his progress. He will conclude his miserable adventure by becoming a wanderer among the mountains.
March 12  The Monster has actually advanced as far as Grenoble
March 13  The Tyrant is now at Lyon. Fear and Terror seized all at his appeaance.
March 18  The Usurper has ventured to approach to within 60 hours' march of the capital.
March 19  Bonaparte is advancing by forced marches, but it is impossible he can reach Paris.
March 20  Napoleon will arrive under the walls of Paris tomorrow.
March 21  The Emperor Napoleon is at Fountainbleau
March 22  Yesteday evening His Majesty the Emperor made his public entry and arrived at the Tuileries. Nothing can exceed the universal joy.

As General Georges le Paton said, "The French, we love a winner!"

But there's also a sense of exhaustion about Waterloo on June 18, 1815. The best British troops were returning from the War of 1812 in America, so Wellington fought his usual defensive tactics, sheltering his troop on the reverse slope of a low ridge, not asking more of them than he could expect. The French troops fought well, but they had been winnowed by two decades of war. 

Napoleon's initial strategy of driving a wedge between the British and the Prussians, so he could destroy each army separately, had somehow come to fruition, leaving him about 12 desperate hours to beat Wellington and then turn on Blucher. For once, though, Napoleon seemed too tired to seize the initiative, puttering away the morning before finally launching the battle.

As for Gettysburg, the War Nerd says, "But not Gettysburg. The more you know about it, the finer, cleaner, more goddamn magnificent it was."

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

The best British troops were returning from the War of 1812 in America,
huh? i always thought that they just sent the 'JV' over here. Wellington famously advised against attacking america - in short, we were all armed and there was wide open country that could sustain and army - thus conquering the 'cities' such as they were, meant nothing.

Anonymous said...

I've been to Gettysburg many times. With the failure, or unwillingness, of Ewell to capture Culp's and Cemetery hill on day 1, Lee should have definitely withdrawn from the field and sought battle elsewhere. That fishhook line was very strong. Lee was attacking a numerically superior force, in a strong defensive position, operating on interior lines. It also had the advantage of fighting in a northern state, with the support of the local populace.

Bgil said...

I don't know if Napoleon would have been able to keep his government together even if he'd won at waterloo. Also, I don't believe Napoleon would have been able to attack during the morning, the ground was still too muddy to maneuver his canon's effectively.

peterike said...

Gettysburg: wrong side won.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the best British troops still hadn't returned from the North American theatre of the Napoleonic wars; that's why Wellington's army at Waterloo was only about one third British.
Wellington, by the way, never advised against attacking America -- that's a myth. See, Donald Hickey's Don't Give Up the Ship. In any case, the United States attacked Britain in 1812, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

According to a recent German historian, it was the Prussians who won the Battle of Waterloo -- not Wellington.

Beefy Levinson said...

The South would have lost the war even had Lee won at Gettysburg. The fall of Vicksburg on the Fourth of July that year sealed the Confederacy's fate.

Blucher said...

"sheltering his troop on the reverse slope of a low ridge"

In my day, we didn't have this new-fangled 'tactics'. We stood in a line in front of enemy cannons and we liked it.

Auntie Analogue said...


"War, which used to be cruel and magnificent has now become cruel and squalid." - Winston Churchill


jody said...

the whole thing, especially with the civil war re-enactors, now takes on a new, utterly fascinating perspective for me when i view it in contrast to where the cultural marxists are taking the country.

if they even notice them (which 99% of them won't), i imagine the future vibrant citizens of 2043 america utterly baffled as they watch these minority whites playing dress up and having fake little battles with their pop guns.

"What is Gettysburg?" 99% of them will ask.

an event forming the crux of one of the most important periods in US history will be rendered to the status of an off-broadway play. indeed, by 2043, it's a good bet that almost all "pre-vibrant america" history, the history of the whites, will have been so distorted, truncated, and even straight up eliminated, that the idiocracy type denizens of most of the US won't even know where the united states came from. it will just be there, like a giant spaceship in outer space, filled with people on a centuries long voyage, the original mission long since forgetten.

the history of the whites will be the history of a bunch of aliens, unknown and irrelevant to current residents. never before will the history an entire nation have been rendered irrelevant by simple biological replacement.

"That's not our history, nor do I even care about what some white people were doing 100 years ago" is what the vibrant average joe on the street would probably respond with if asked about the history of "his" country on a summer day in july in 2043.

it would be liking asking a white average joe today, about the history of china, india, or the islamic caliphate. "No idea, don't care. Who cares what a bunch of chinks or dot heads or towel heads were doing in 562 AD." crude. but he has a point. that's not the history of his people, and it's irrelevant to his paycheck in 2 weeks.

the europeans who created and built the nation from scratch are about to make the transition into the "who knows, don't care" category. gettysburg will be as forgotten and irrelevant as vacuum tubes. we're all creepy ass crackers now.

Dr Van Nostrand said...

War Nerd writes like an immature fan boy.
Are any serious online military historians more in the mould of John Keegan?

Anonymous said...

According to a recent German historian, it was the Prussians who won the Battle of Waterloo -- not Wellington.

This claim pops up from time to time. I think its fair to say that the Prussians & British defeated him together, I doubt either army could have won on its own.

Dr Van Nostrand said...

Arthur Wellesley experience in fighting Tipu Sultan and the Marathas prepared him for the peninsular War. The latter groups lost as they couldn't match the logistical capabilities and discipline of his army. And they frequently underestimated his boldness as he refused to fight defensive battles.

From wikipedia

Military historian, Richard Holmes, remarked that his experiences in India had an important influence on his personality and military tactics, teaching him much about military matters that would prove vital to his success in the Peninsular War.[71] These included a strong sense of discipline through drill and order,[72] the use of diplomacy to gain allies, and the vital necessity for a secure supply line. He also established a high regard for the acquisition of intelligence through scouts and spies.[72]


There was mutual admiration on both sides. Wellington spoke highly of Tipu Sultas's troops and the Marathas.
While to this day, a town named Wellington is host to Defence Staff Services College, a military academy for mid level officers in the Indian army
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellington_Cantonment

That it has escaped the nativist renaming mania that was prevalent in India in the 1990s speaks volumes

Anonymous said...

"That's not our history, nor do I even care about what some white people were doing 100 years ago"

Isnt that how the diversity already talk?

Steve Sailer said...

"I think its fair to say that the Prussians & British defeated him together"

This fits in with my theory that the things most interesting to argue over are the ones that are most arguable.

Thus, it's worth noting what a damn close run thing it was, as Wellington said.

With the Prussians minutes away from the center of the battlefield, Napoleon sent his reserve, the Imperial Guard, up the hill to break Wellington's line, only to be shattered by British volleys, stop, waver, then break and run. The Prussians provided most of the fresh men who hunted down the French during the night.

What's fascinating is how the tactical climax was a miniature version of Napoleon's grand strategy for 1815, to get between the two allies' armies and defeat them in turn. He succeeded in wedging between them, but just barely. He wore down the British all afternoon, but with the Prussians closing in, he had to bet his reserve in a final assault maybe an hour earlier than he would have preferred.

If the Imperial Guard had broken the British line, would Napoleon have then been able to wheel his army around to defeat the Prussians in the gloaming? Who knows? (It's interesting that a French detachment defeated a Prussian detachment some distance away the next day, in the last battle of the Revolutionary-Napoleonic quarter-century.)

The point is that there are good reasons why it was such a close run thing. The best general versus the second and third best generals led to #2 and #3 teaming up to beat #1, but #1 came close to pulling it off. Usually, somebody screws up and everything turns into a fiasco, but this time, the mistakes were small enough that the game theory model came true. Napoleon found the precise gap that the British and Prussians allowed between themselves on the road to the English Channel, but Wellington and Blucher didn't let it get quite so large that Napoleon could get a full length June day to get between them. Ultimately, it came down to the roll of the dice on one charge, which a game theory model would predict -- a fifty-fifty situation that could have gone either way, which is one reason people still talk about Waterloo.

eah said...

goddamn magnificent

I wonder if the guys who were gravely injured and then had their limbs sawed off, oftentimes without proper anasthesia, felt the same way about it.

Not too surprisingly, amputation was the most common type of 'surgery' during the Civil War.

guest007 said...

Steve,

When one actually visits Gettysburg Battlefield (or most any Civil War Battlefield), the visitors there are about as White as the gallery at a PGA Tour event (or a Republican Party meeting).

For some reason, visiting museums and historical sites has become a "white thing" than even the highly educated Asians do not bother to do.

Ross said...

"it was the Prussians who won the Battle of Waterloo -- not Wellington"

Wellington's strategy for the battle involved holding on defensively until the Prussians arrived, it doesn't make sense to say that either the Prussians won or Wellington did as Wellington's strategy depended on the Prussians.

Anyway even if Napoleon had won, he would still have had to face a massive joint Austrian and Russian army, so would have lost in any case.

sunbeam said...

jody wrote:

"the history of the whites will be the history of a bunch of aliens, unknown and irrelevant to current residents. never before will the history an entire nation have been rendered irrelevant by simple biological replacement."

Timothy Flannery had a quote in The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and it's Peoples:

"While a future so distant may seem unkowable or unimaginable, other more ordinary outcomes can be guessed at. I think I know, for example, what most Americans will look like 1000 years from now. The majority will, I believe, resemble the Americans who occupies the continent before the historic frontier ever opened in 1492. Why do I think this? Because for the last few thousand years, Mexico, with its dense population, has been the great powerhouse of cultural diffusion in North America, and it is still a mass exporter of people. Today's Mexicans are the fruit of the ecological bargain struck between the conquistadors and the inhabitants of the Aztec empire. As such they retain more native American culture and genes than any other group on the continent. If current trends continue it is these people who will achieve numerical dominance, at least in the United States, in the near future. The New World will then have come full circle."

Bet that as it may, let's say there were no Mexicans, nor any native Americans left. Let's just say North America was solely populated by Europeans.

Well in a couple of thousand years I would expect the population to resemble the original inhabitants in skin tone and many other features. The original population was presumably optimized for existence in this environment.

Why wouldn't a population converge onto a previous successful form? How could it be otherwise really? Evolution is like rust, it never sleeps.

I really think Oswald Spengler was on to something, but this would be hard to quantify scientifically. A quote from wiki concerning his theory of race and place:

"A race, writes Spengler, has "roots," just like a plant. It is connected to a landscape. "If, in that home, the race cannot be found, this means the race has ceased to exist. A race does not migrate. Men migrate, and their successive generations are born in ever-changing landscapes; but the landscape exercises a secret force upon the extinction of the old and the appearance of the new one."[11] In this instance, he writes of "race" in the tribal and cultural rather than biological sense, a 19th Century use of the word that was still common when the book was written.

For this reason, a race is not exactly like a plant. "Science has completely failed to note that race is not the same for rooted plants as it is for mobile animals, that with the micro-cosmic side of life a fresh group of characteristics appear and that for the animal world it is decisive. Nor again has it perceived that a completely different significance must be attached to 'races' when the word denotes subdivisions within the integral race 'Man.' With its talk of casual concentration it sets up a soulless concentration of superficial characters, and blots out the fact that here the blood and there the power of the land over the blood are expressing themselves—secrets that cannot be inspected and measured, but only livingly experienced from eye to eye. Nor are scientists at one as to the relative rank of these superficial characters".[12]"

I also don't think the whole process takes terribly long. A few thousand years at the very most. Beating of a gnat's wings really, if you go that way.

Conatus said...

The battle of the Crater in Petersburg, Va., is an oddball anomaly of Civil War battles. The 48th Pennsylvania, using an ingenious method to circulate air to the diggers, dug a 500 foot long tunnel under the Confederate lines. They packed it with explosives and blew it up early one morning.
The Confederates were scattered, dying and in confusion. The Union Officers in charge were incompetent, let ten minutes of surprise advantage pass and instead of circling around the crater with their troops, they sent their dutiful enlisted men right into the crater where they were slaughtered by the Southerners. It was a huge lost opportunity for the North, due entirely to incompetent leadership.
You hear about this Crater,(the novel Cold Mountain started me out), expect it to be similar to staring down into a gigantic strip mine but when you actually see it, it looks like a backhoe dug a new septic system and did not fill it in.
The battle field is nicely maintained but the city of Petersburg itself is kind of a mini Birmingham, Ala., afflicted with declining commercial decrepitude and similar demographics.

elvisd said...

At the time of Gettysburg, my ancestors were in the grinding slog of being in Braxton Bragg's army- not much clean and fine there. Marching and fighting under rough conditions is bad enough, but doing it for three years under chaotic leadership must have been awful.

Anonymous said...

Waterloo was also the occasion for a combination of two of Steve's other interests: Orwell and the Media. If you've ever thought that the MSM downplaying the real news in favor of celebrity gossip and product advertisements is a recent phenomenon, check out Orwell's mini-essay from 1/19/1945:

If you ever have to walk from Fleet Street to the Embankment, it is worth going into the office of the Observer and having a look at something that is preserved in the waiting-room. It is a framed page from the Observer (which is one of our oldest newspapers) for a certain day in June, 1815. In appearance it is very like a modern newspaper, though slightly worse printed, and with only five columns on the page. The largest letters used are not much more than a quarter of an inch high. The first column is given up to ‘Court and Society’, then follows several columns of advertisements, mostly of rooms to let. Half-way down the last column is a headline SANGUINARY BATTLE IN FLANDERS. COMPLETE DEFEAT OF THE CORSICAN UPRISING. This is the first news of Waterloo!

Ironically, though, Orwell actually thought this sense of priority reflected a deep level of sanity on the part of Georgian England. One wonders whether he'd say the same about Kardashian headlines and Chevy commercials coming ahead of news of Congressional moves on amnesty.

Hacienda said...

we're all creepy ass crackers now.
-------------

I view white people as an overly technical, machine tooled, propagandized, fantasized race with
an enormous analytical talent. Way too few in number relative to world to be telling others how to live.

Like most colored people, we see whites as overstretched, force multiplied, but generally (newly) "agreeable".

peterike said...

I wonder if the guys who were gravely injured and then had their limbs sawed off, oftentimes without proper anasthesia, felt the same way about it.

From Walt Whitman:

On, on I go, (open doors of time! open hospital doors!)
The crush'd head I dress, (poor crazed hand tear not the bandage away,)
The neck of the cavalry-man with the bullet through and through examine,
Hard the breathing rattles, quite glazed already the eye, yet life struggles hard,
(Come sweet death! be persuaded O beautiful death! In mercy come quickly.)

From the stump of the arm, the amputated hand,
I undo the clotted lint, remove the slough, wash off the matter and blood,
Back on his pillow the soldier bends with curv'd neck and side falling head,
His eyes are closed, his face is pale, he dares not look on the bloody stump,
And has not yet look'd on it.

I dress a wound in the side, deep, deep,
But a day or two more, for see the frame all wasted and sinking,
And the yellow-blue countenance see.

I dress the perforated shoulder, the foot with the bullet-wound,
Cleanse the one with a gnawing and putrid gangrene, so sickening, so offensive,
While the attendant stands behind aside me holding the tray and pail.


Thanks, Honest Abe!

pat said...

I never knew much about the American Civil War. My cousin Willie was a Civil War buff so I didn't want to poach. Just as I've never read any really good biography of Jefferson because my ex-wife was the Jefferson buff.

I stuck to Roman and early modern European history. Plus some Japanese and Chinese.

But then I picked up "Grant Comes East" in a bargain bin. This is the second novel in Gingrich's Gettysburg alternate history trilogy. I don't normally like alternate history and I had always avoided Civil War novels. But this one was good. I read the other two and "The Killer Angels" and soon I was devouring specialist books on the deployment of the artillery, the effectiveness of the rifle musket and the communication style of Lee.

I was hooked. I still don't know much about the Civil War in general but I know a lot of minutia about Gettysburg.

Something similar happened with Waterloo. I knew a lot about Waterloo - or so I thought. I had read Creasy's 15 Battles and lots of Keegan's books but I never really got a flavor of Wellington's mind until I read all of Cornwell's Sharpe India novels.

Good historical fiction is just as important as real history. I used to think I understood Trafalgar too until I read Sharpe's first hand account.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

The standard history of Gettysburg that I've read is that Lee launched an incursion into Pennsylvania for no particular strategic reason, the confederate and union troops inevitably met at Gettysburg - a major road and railroad junction - and then Lee frittered away his army attacking a well-entrenched union army holding the high ground.

This seems a canard given the strategic and tactical brilliance that Lee demonstrated in every other campaign he planned and led. I read a book in the past five years that suggests an alternative and much more plausible scenario and one which gives Custer a place of honor. The scenario goes as follows:

Lee's Napoleonic strategy involved a deliberate full-scale invasion of the north. His intention was to meet and defeat the union army and then to choose whether to attack Harrisburg or Washington. Northern sentiment against the war was strong enough at this point that the capture of either city would likely have led to a politically brokered end to the war.

Lee's tactics at Gettysburg were again based on standard Napoleonic tactics, e.g., Marengo. Two days of frontal attacks softened the union and led them to the expectation of a similar strategy on the third day. Instead Lee sent Stuart's cavalry on a wide sweep around the right flank of the union army so they would have been positioned to attack the union rear at the exact time Pickett's brigade was charging the front. The result would have been the rout of the entire union army.

The author of this book argues that Custer's action against Stuart's cavalry behind the union lines destroyed Lee's tactical plan. Pickett attacked unsupported and his brigade was decimated. Lee's only option was to retire the field and retreat.

Whether Gettysburg was a truly decisive battle (whether victory would have determined the outcome of the war either way) is arguable. Much would have depended on imponderables such as whether confederate morale would have been high enough after a victory to sustain a successful march on Harrisburg or Washington and whether northern anti-war sentiment would have been sufficient to lead to a political settlement. It was decisive in that the northern victory spelled the definite end to any hope of a confederate victory.

My great grandfather fought with the Massachusetts cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign although not in the main battle. His unit lost several skirmishes with Stuart's cavalry. Maybe these actions helped soften Stuart up for the decisive encounter with Stuart on July 4.

Anonymous said...

Even if he had won at Waterloo, Napoleon didn't have a chance. Massive, grimly determined, Allied armies (Russian, Austrian, etc.) were moving in from the East.

FWIW, I recommend The Battle: A New History of Waterloo by Alessandro Barbero.

Mr. Anon said...

@jody

Quite true. Entrusting one's cultural legacy to a replacement population is like entrusting your family heirlooms to a stranger - they will soon end up in a dumpster. Fundmentally, they do not care about OUR history because it is not THEIR history. And why should they? It is a fool who believe it would be any other way.

A great deal of history itself will be lost in the coming years. That's what happens in a dark-age.

Anonymous said...

Didn’t Wellington say that he would have attacked the French, if he had been given his old British and Portuguese troops from the Spanish campaign? Still, his scum of the earth won the day anyway.

Anonymous said...

Steve said: What's fascinating is how the tactical climax was a miniature version of Napoleon's grand strategy for 1815, to get between the two allies' armies and defeat them in turn.

Except that even if he had been successful in doing so at Waterloo, Napoleon still had to roll boxcars again against the Russian and Austrian armies that were following behind the British and Prussians. An exceedingly unlikely outcome, so even if Waterloo had turned out differently, we'd still probably be only talking about the Hundred-and-Fifty Days rather than just one Hundred. So really the 1815 Grand Strategy had to deal with four armies.

Waterloo's importance is more cultural than strategic, magnified in history by the participation of the British Army, since the English language has dominated in the two hundred years since and has the biggest megaphone. ABBA would have never written a song called "Leipzig", even though that was far more of a strategic pivot than Waterloo was, in the grand scheme of things.

Anonymous said...

The South would have lost the war even had Lee won at Gettysburg.

Just so. While unquestionably Gettysburg was the biggest set-piece battle ever in the history of the Western Hemisphere, the fact remains that it is the least likely of the 'big' battles of the Civil War to have altered the outcome of the war decisively in favor of the CSA. Vicksburg in the West was mentioned, but even in the Eastern theatre, Antietam, First Manassas, or even Atlanta would have led to conditions for southern 'victory' more than Gettysburg had the Confederates either won them, or won bigger. It sounds harsh to say, and no insult meant to the thousands that fought and died there, but Gettysburg is an overrated historical pivot.

Indeed, in Newt Gingrich's most recent "alternative history" novel (much better researched and written than his alternative WW2 porn of the 90s), a victory by Lee at Gettysburg sets up a chain of events that leads to a Union victory much sooner than occurred in our history.

Anonymous said...

"According to a recent German historian, it was the Prussians who won the Battle of Waterloo -- not Wellington."

Three options

1) The earlier battle hadn't happened at all and the Prussians arrived to fight a completely fresh French army.

2) Wellington's army had been defeated and the Prussians faced a tired but victorious French army.

3) The Prussians arrived after the French were defeated but unbroken.

I think the Prussian arrival turned a defeat into a rout and that rout prevented a further battle and won the war so i think Wellington won the battle and the Prussians won the war.

jody said...

pennsylvania senator pat toomey was the only northerner in the senate to vote against the amnesty bill.

the northeast went 21-1 in favor, with toomey being the lone no vote.

pennsylvania, the last good big state left.

unfortunately it looks like governor tom corbett will lose re-election, and a cultural marxist will assume the governor's office in 2014.

Hunsdon said...

eah said: I wonder if the guys who were gravely injured and then had their limbs sawed off, oftentimes without proper anasthesia, felt the same way about it.

Hunsdon said: It was soldiers fighting soldiers, for things they thought were important. It wasn't soldiers looting, raping, and killing their way through the civil population. By that standard, it was indeed magnificent.

Today, a similar (if lesser) question as to the direction our great nation should take is being decided . . . by people who lied about their beliefs to get elected, by big money, and by ideological zealots. This is anything but magnificent.

NOTA said...

eah:

The good news is that the doctors at least had ether and laudanum for pain. The bad news is, nobody had antibiotics, so the only thing to be done for an infected limb was to break out the saw and hope for the best.

That's really one of the things that's hardest to get through your head about the past--how incredibly shitty the medical care was. Up until sometime in the mid to late 1800s, you were generally better off with no medical care beyond minimal nursing. I've often read that Jewish doctors had a high reputation in Christian Europe in the middle ages, and I wonder how much of that had to do with ritual washing, because doctors in general had no idea they even needed to wash their hands between patients.

Anonymous said...

Huw Davies has the best recent book on Wellington that analyzes how he became a great general and notes how he presented Waterloo as British victory for political reasons. The book's worth reading

Dutch Boy said...

The drama of Gettysburg was a function of the fish-hook shape of the Union line. The concavity allowed rapid reinforcement of the line at the point of Confederate attack and a series of just-in-the-nick of time counterattacks to drive back Confederate incursions.

Anonymous said...

if they even notice them (which 99% of them won't), i imagine the future vibrant citizens of 2043 america utterly baffled as they watch these minority whites playing dress up and having fake little battles with their pop guns.

What did the Revolutionary War mean to the children of some Sicilian or Russian immigrant that got off the boat in 1910? "White" is a modern American creation. Back in the 1840s, the Know Nothing Party was petrified of all the Irish Catholics coming off the boat. That they were white was not that relevant. Benjamin Franklin worried about German immigration etc.

I am not saying race is irrelevant but acculturation and assimilation account for something. The children of swarthy Southern European immigrants came to identify with the history of what was predominantly an Anglo-Saxon country. Back in Europe, this would have been impossible given British opinions of the Italians or even North Italian opinions of South Italians.

On the issue of "biology" do the Italians remember Roman battles fondly? They are biologically the same people as those that lived on the Italian peninsula under Julius Caesar but they couldn't care less.

Countries, nations and peoples change and so does their history. I doubt that most white teenagers in America today read about Davy Crockett, the Alamo or that it means anything to them. They are still biologically the same people. The history of the civil war will go the same way because the people have changed - and I do not mean only biologically. How many British children today even know who the British were fighting at Rorke's Drift? Or in the Crimea? They are also biologically identical to the men who fought those battles.

The fact that the new immigrants are racially different adds an additional layer of separation but even without it you can whitewash and change all of history with the same people.

Anonymous said...

"War, which used to be cruel and magnificent has now become cruel and squalid." - Winston Churchill

That is another magnificent quote. He certainly had a gift for these things.

Inane Rambler said...

My understanding is that while the Prussians ultimately finished off the French army, if Wellington's force hadn't held the line long enough for the Prussians to arrive, Napoleon would have turned against the Prussians and possibly won.

If he had pulled that off, ultimately it wouldn't have mattered as the Russians and the Austrians were only several days away, and together they easily had the numbers to put Napoleon down.

Let's not forget that it was Russia who ultimately destroyed the French Empire. Russia sent half a million soldiers into Germany.

Despite the German attempt to pretend THEY won Waterloo, a significant portion of Blucher's army during the advance through Germany was actually Russian troops seconded to Prussian command.

Inane Rambler said...

Oh, and FWIW I think Wellington was ultimately a much more skilled tactical commander than Napoleon was, but Napoleon was vastly more knowledgeable about the operational level of war, even as his strategic knowledge was so poor that he thought attacking Russia was a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Suvorov was the other great general of the age, though his death in 1800 kind of removes him from the narrative.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

Pat, let's talk historical fiction. Most interesting recent example being Colleen mccullough's Rome books, on which I'm convinced HBO's Rome relied heavily. Which reminds me I have some other Roman stuff wish-listed in AmaZon.

You mention Sharpe ... I got into the Sharpe seriesvia Netflix. How do the books compare to the Flashman series? I don't know anything about Cornwell, but Fraser is a legitimate scholar.

(actually, now that I look at him, I may have read some of Cornwell's early Anglo-Saxon stuff)

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

Oh, and I've started reading Time on The Cross, thanks to the proprietor.

sunbeam said...

Anonymous wrote:

"The standard history of Gettysburg that I've read is that Lee launched an incursion into Pennsylvania for no particular strategic reason, the confederate and union troops inevitably met at Gettysburg - a major road and railroad junction - and then Lee frittered away his army attacking a well-entrenched union army holding the high ground.

This seems a canard given the strategic and tactical brilliance that Lee demonstrated in every other campaign he planned and led. I read a book in the past five years that suggests an alternative and much more plausible scenario and one which gives Custer a place of honor. The scenario goes as follows:

Lee's Napoleonic strategy involved a deliberate full-scale invasion of the north. His intention was to meet and defeat the union army and then to choose whether to attack Harrisburg or Washington. Northern sentiment against the war was strong enough at this point that the capture of either city would likely have led to a politically brokered end to the war."

Look, I'm a southerner, but I don't have any particular affection for Scarlett and Rhett.

However in Lee's defense, the fact that the war had gone as well as it had for the South to that point is more an indictment of the North not getting it's act together than any real strategic chance of winning the war by combat.

Lee had to do something. The North had three times the population, vastly more money, industrial production that dwarfed anything the South had.

Plus the South had one heck of a fifth column waiting to emerge. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader as to what that would have been.

All these movies and stuff make it appear like both sides were totally united and of one soul or something. This isn't true. There were draft riots in NYC.

Parts of the South didn't secede (West by God). Within the southern states there were counties that officially didn't secede (whatever that meant really).

You had real friction between the Planters and the backwoods and lower class whites, particularly in the uplands of many southern states.

I think I read it in the American nations book, but I've read the theory that if the South hadn't attacked Fort Sumter, prevailing opinion in a lot of states in the North might have precluded the war from occurring. Basically those Citadel cadets, egged on if they were, sealed the fate of the whole thing by attacking and setting public opinion in the North solidly in favor of war.

Obviously a lot of New England states were all in to the conflict, but other states like Pennsylvania and New York weren't exactly gung ho about the whole thing.

Just saying that defeat for the South was inevitable given the logistic discrepancies alone. The only way to win was to make the North want to throw in the towel, not by direct military efforts.

Well I guess a foreign power like Great Britain could have jumped in, but that is about the only way.

Because even if Gettysburg had gone the South's way, so what? It's not like it would have affected the North's ability to wage war.

Alternate histories are always speculation. But one scenario I've never seen described is a Southern victory at Gettysburg, followed by some kind of Carthaginian solution by an enraged North.

Matthew said...

"For some reason, visiting museums and historical sites has become a 'white thing' than even the highly educated Asians do not bother to do."

Why would they give a shit? Because we were nice enough to let them move here? Massasoit helped my ancestors survive their first winter at Plymouth. Fat lotta good that did his descendants.

We weren't grateful. Why should today's immigrants be? People should keep that in mind when they consider the insane amount of immigration we're allowing today.




Matthew said...

"Well in a couple of thousand years I would expect the population to resemble the original inhabitants in skin tone and many other features. The original population was presumably optimized for existence in this environment."

The Amerindians of 1491 were optimized for air conditioned homes, cars, and offices? For work that was more demanding mentally than physically? Who knew?

Anonymous said...

This seems a canard given the strategic and tactical brilliance that Lee demonstrated in every other campaign he planned and led.

Actually, before he took command of the Army of Northern Virginia on 1 June 1862, Lee was best known in the Confederacy for having planned a disastrous campaign to recover breakaway West Virginia for Richmond, and for having planned and led the defense of coastal SC and GA which led to the loss of Fort Pulaski. His appointment to ANV C-in-C came as a shock to the southern press, which was calling him "Granny Lee".

Hacienda said...

We weren't grateful. Why should today's immigrants be? People should keep that in mind when they consider the insane amount of immigration we're allowing today.
----------------

Maybe keeping what you say "in mind" is one of causes of the levels of immigration today.

Eh, sporty?

Anonymous said...

"but Napoleon was vastly more knowledgeable about the operational level of war, even as his strategic knowledge was so poor that he thought attacking Russia was a good idea."

Well that may have been the motive - knowing how good he was and knowing how hard it would be even then - the ultimate challenge.

Anonymous said...

One thing is clear. If Napoleon won at Waterloo the West would have been much less vibrant than now.

The wrong sides won most of wars and the price is global vibrancy. It is perhaps deserving that Gettysburg is now slowly slipping into the dustbin of history by the very people this battle intended to 'free'.

ben tillman said...

On the issue of "biology" do the Italians remember Roman battles fondly? They are biologically the same people as those that lived on the Italian peninsula under Julius Caesar....

Prove it.

Anonymous said...

To my mind there are really only two interesting hypotheticals for the Civil War

A) stonewall doesn't die at Chancellorsville

B) what does a Beddford Forest led guerrilla campaign look like

Lee basically so much as said the game was up when Stonewall died. Indeed, it is intersting to read the Southern Agrarians and discover the only unimanously revered commander was stonewall. Lee was picked because he was basically one of the few patricians who could both not snob off at enlisted men and not get in senseless duels or gethis honor hurt and pout. I don't say this critical that's just the reality of Southern culture at the time.

Sam Haysom

Anonymous said...

These new immigrants won´t care because they are a different race, Blacks who have been in America as long as can be don´t give a damn about American history other than to bad-mouth it.

I`m white but my family only arrived in the 1920´s. And no one was of a correct age to fight in WW@ or NAM or any other war. But, I still feel great appreciation for Americn history. I feel connected to the Founding Fathers, and genuinly feel like a descendant of them and America´s great pioneers and inventors. Why am I different than are new brown immigrants... its truly sad, because america is arguably, including england, italy, greece, the most important country in world history.

David said...

>I don't believe Napoleon would have been able to attack during the morning, the ground was still too muddy to maneuver his canon's effectively.<

I agree. He was undone, in the end, by weather (includes the Moscow campaign), which is as close to being undone by Fate as one can get. One can get away with starting many battles but any run holds out only so long, then nature/karma/whatever calls a halt. Hitler found this out, too. Not only did his invasion of Russia fail because of the cold, but Irving even says unlucky weather is what prevented his starting the invasion sooner to begin with.

Wars of aggression in general have baleful effects on the aggressor as well as on the victims. One of these boomerangs is immigration from the attacked country. Do a dust-up in the Middle East and you get a significant injection of Middle Eastern refugees, "wretched refuse of the teeming shore." We went to Vietnam and all we got were these lousy pedicure palaces. France in Algeria led to Algeria in France. Buying captives from Africa meant becoming captives in Detroit et al. ...and dying of gangrene in Gettysburg.

Most of the time, it's not a bad idea to stay home and mind one's own business.

Anonymous said...

How about a treat? Hear a a trumpet that was used at the Battle of Waterloo, June 18, 1815, of the Napoleonic Wars, played by Trumpeter Landfrey, who was a bugler in the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaklava, October 25, 1854, of the Crimean War. And his voice as well!

http://archive.org/details/EDIS-SWDPC-01-04

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how poor medical care was in the Civil War and how really poor it was in Napoleon's time.

It is apparently now irrefutable that Napoleon's Army was dying of a Typhus epidemic before he crossed into Russia and was thereafter constantly shrinking due to the disease. Napoleon probably understood what the numbers meant and how it put time limits on his campaign. His medical staff was clueless as to what to do about it. Of course, such losses due to disease were probably normal thoughout history.

Interesting takes: Insects, Disease, and Military History: The Napoleonic Campaigns and Historical Perception, Robert K. D. Peterson.

Lice 'undermined Napoleon's army', BBC.

The Illustrious Dead: Napoleon, Typhus, and the Dream of World Conquest, Stephan Talty.

pat said...

In answer to JeremiahJohnbalaya.

I'm not the one to ask. I have one Flashman novel in my bookcase which I have yet to read. OTOH I've read at least twenty Cornwell books. Cornwell's scholarship is good. Most of his novels have a short final chapter where he explains what liberties he took with the facts.

I've read all of McCullough's Roman novels too, as well as a couple dozen other novels set in Rome. I think I have four different novels based on the Cataline Conspiracy.

McCullough's scholarship is more than excellent. She has the best explanation for Spartacus I've read anywhere.

If you read Livy for example you are also reading what we would call today historical fiction. Polybius is closer to what we now call a real historian but most of our ancient sources made up a lot of stuff to serve their puposes. Plutarch carefully fit real personalities into his moral plotlines. He was telling a story and making various political and ethical points. He wasn't trying to be objective and just recount the facts.

I need to read some more Newt Gingrich. Two years ago I hoped that he would lose in the primaries so he could write some more novels. Had he won the economy would certainly be better but we would probably have American boots on the Syrian ground. Better he write novels.

On today's topic - Gettysburg - there are I'm told 5,000 books in print. I had previously thought that the most tedious book I had ever read was a book on Ukrainian philology. But it was nothing compared to a book on Gettysburg artillery. The various Parrott, Napoleon and Ordinance guns are interesting enough but this book was a compilation of which officer had which little battery where on the battlefield at ever hour of all three days. A couple hundred pages of this induces tertiary MEGO.

Albertosaurus

Hunsdon said...

The Flashman books are really quite excellent. Buried amidst the cavalry whiskers, cowardice and carnality is some thumping good military history. The first time through, just read it. The second time through, read the end notes as you go. The third time through, read the end notes and take notes. George Macdonald Fraser was a cracking good author.

In addition to the Flashman series, he wrote a much shorter, much lighter MacAuslan series ("The General Danced at Dawn"), the screenplays for "The Three (and Four) Musketeers" and "Octopussy," a memoir of his service under General Slim in the IBC Theater during WW2 ("Quartered Safe Out Here") and finally, a bitter old man's ruminations on the destruction of his homeland, "Light's On at Signpost."

If you are a regular here, I would wager quite long odds that you would like Fraser's writing.

Hunsdon said...

Today on facebook (yes, yes, I know) I saw a post by a Slavic page that in translation read: A people who do not know their roots do not deserve a future.

Purely coincidentally, the White House has had no proclamations, announcements, statements, remarks or proclamations regarding the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg.

David Davenport said...

Lee's Napoleonic strategy involved a deliberate full-scale invasion of the north. His intention was to meet and defeat the union army and then to choose whether to attack Harrisburg or Washington. Northern sentiment against the war was strong enough at this point that the capture of either city would likely have led to a politically brokered end to the war."

Look, I'm a southerner, but I don't have any particular affection for Scarlett and Rhett.

However in Lee's defense, the fact that the war had gone as well as it had for the South to that point is more an indictment of the North not getting it's act together than any real strategic chance of winning the war by combat.

Lee had to do something. The North had three times the population, vastly more money, industrial production that dwarfed anything the South had....


And what is your point?

Lee didn't have to lose at Gettysberg. Choosing to commit the main body of his army to battle at Gettysberg was not inevitable, not due to some unavoidable force of nature. Neither was the decision to frontally assault the Union army on Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top instead of trying to outflank Meade's army inevitable.

... He was undone, in the end, by weather (includes the Moscow campaign), which is as close to being undone by Fate as one can get. One can get away with starting many battles but any run holds out only so long, then nature/karma/whatever calls a halt. Hitler found this out, too. Not only did his invasion of Russia fail because of the cold, but Irving even says unlucky weather is what prevented his starting the invasion sooner to begin with.

Isn't blaming things on fate/nature/karma/whatever merely a way of making excuses?

In his book Panzer Leader, Heinz Guderian claims he could have taken Moscow in spite of the weather if Hitler had let Guderian fold Army Groups North and South into Guderians' Army Group Central and concentrated German forces against Moscow's defenses. With Moscow under new management, Guderian said that the Baltic and Caucasian campaigns could have successfully resumed in the spring.

In short, Guderian claims that the Ostkrieg failed because of one man's bad decisions.