Thursday, November 30, 2017

Lincoln's clown car

Lincoln's Lieutenants: The High Command of the Army of the Potomac by Stephen W. Sears

This is the first time I've tried reading a book on the US Civil War that's pitched at such a high level of detail. It's 900 pages on generalship in the army that basically spent four years in Virginia (with occasional excursions north), running around after Robert E. Lee. I've been at it for days and not out of 1862 yet.

It's not just the commanding generals. It's all the generals, of whom there were a bleedin' lot, with occasional excursions into colonels.

Here's what I'm learning about generalship:

1. Incompetent generals complained at being charged with incompetence.

2. Competent generals also complained at being charged with incompetence, as well as not having their achievements mentioned in dispatches, and even accusations of treason.

3. Generals frequently had their command assignments switched around. Whenever this starts, I can usually skip ahead a few pages without missing anything.

4. Generals feuded with each other. Constantly.

5. Generals were more likely to explain their strategic plans in letters home to their wives than to their fellow or subordinate generals.

6. Some generals consistently overestimated the size of the enemy's forces. Others didn't.

7. General McClellan, in command, tried his utmost to avoid doing anything, and got terribly upset whenever he did accidentally do something.

I'm hoping this miasma changes soon, and so, it's clear, does Mr. Lincoln.

1 comment:

  1. In contrast, there is Douglas Southall Freeman's three volume "Lee's Lieutenants" (put near 2,200 pages) in which Lee's various Generals (and appropriate Colonels) are mostly brilliant though occasionally errant. The volumes were published in the 1940's. In the end they lost the war.