Friday, January 29, 2010

The Wilderness in Gettysburg

It's deja vu all over again. Someone wants to develop the land on the periphery of a battlefield. We have seen this movie before. It is called the Wilderness Wal Mart.

The CWPT and other preservationists will go through the hearing process again. When it does, it should do a public relations campaign to win the support of the people in and around Gettysburg. They should focus more on them than on getting well-known outsiders to oppose the project. Ultimately, the local politicians will do what all politicians do: follow the poll numbers. We have to influence those numbers.

And if the hearing process doesn't go our way, we should find the preservationist-minded people in the area and sign them up to be ready to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit. Without them, we will not have legal standing. We better be ready to do some serious litigation. As a lawyer, I do not find that prospect unappetizing.

We know the playbook and we know how to play it. Jim Lighthizer will be our quarterback (it is Super Bowl season after all).

Like the Civil War, this will be a protracted conflict.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Civil War Joke-Confederate Pride

Even when the military situation went against them, Confederate pride ran strong. During a Union offensive, a Yankee soldier spoke with a group of Southern women as masses of Union troops moved toward the front.

The soldier asked,"Have you ladies seen so many Yankee soldiers?"

One of the women replied,"Not at liberty, sir."

Source: Noah Andre Trudeau, Bloody Roads South
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Gettysburg Term

It's amazing how the Civil War can invade your daily speech.

It was the day after the election in Massachussetts. The people there just elected a new Senator last Tuesday.

I spoke with a colleague about the result. We discussed the election's effect on the health care bill being advanced in Congress.

I said,"We've been spared the monstrosity."

My colleague said,"For now."

I shook my head. "The Dems have reached their high water mark."

Once again, you see how an expression from the Civil War can apply to our lives.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lincoln's Prerogative

On this day in 1864, President Lincoln exercised his executive prerogative and suspended the death sentences of five soldiers found guilty of desertion.

Naturally, this act and others like it annoyed his generals to no end. They saw them, perhaps justifiably, as a slackening of military discipline.

These suspensions were part of the Lincoln we know. Mercy and magnanimity were key parts of his personality. After a defeat in one of his elections, he went to the winner's victory party. After the capture of Richmond, he gave the famous advice about how to treat the defeated Southerners,"I'd go easy on 'em."

These commutations were in sync with his character.

I think Lincoln would have agreed with Churchill's four-part maxim about war and its aftermath.

"In war-resolution, in defeat-defiance, in victory-magnanimity, in peace-goodwill."
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Did He Say It?

When I traveled to Tennessee in the summer of 2007, I met a man who provided me with an interesting quote by General Lee. The man worked in a Civil War relics shop near Shiloh National Park. He told me that Robert E. Lee, bemoaning the results of Reconstruction, had said,"If I had known it would be this way, I would have kept fighting."

Last Wednesday, Noah Andre Trudeau, the author of a recent book on Lee, came to speak at the New York Civil War Roundtable. During the question time, I asked him if Lee had made the above-mentioned statement. Trudeau said no, though Lee had expressed his misgivings about Reconstruction.

That should have settled my mind but it didn't.

A fellow member of the Roundtable commented on this blog and gave me an account and a cite of a similar quote by Lee in 1870 (thank you for the information). Lee apparently stated that he would have preferred to die fighting at Appomattox than see the results of Reconstruction.

So now I'm confused. Who's right?
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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Rebel Yell

Shelby Foote was wrong. In Ken Burns's Civil War documentary, he claimed that no one really knew what the rebel yell sounded like.

At the New York Civil War Roundtable meeting yesterday, we heard a recording of the yell. In the 1930's, recordings of it by different Confederate veterans were made. I and my dinner companions listened to the recordings of the individuals. It sounded like the high-pitched squawking of a mad chicken.

The Museum of the Confederacy then did something amazing. They combined the sounds of the individuals and duplicated them many times. First, the sound of a platoon was played, then a brigade and finally, a corps. The final recording sent chills up my spine. It was a cascade of high-pitched, never-ending squawks. They continued and crowded out all other sounds. Imagine having to repel that with only one or two combined shots with smoke billowing around you. One woman grimaced. I paused in eating my dessert. I could not digest. I now understand why the Union troops at Gaines Mill broke and ran. I would've on hearing those terrible sounds.

When the moderator offered a copy of a CD with the rebel yell, there were no takers. We needed no vicarious terror in our lives.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Frustrations of Being Commander-in-Chief

On this day in 1862, President Lincoln telegraphed his generals in the West and urged them to attack the Confederate armies. He also grew frustrated with General McClellan's unwillingness to move the Army of the Potomac against the Confederates in Virginia. He faced the eternal problem of presidents urging and asking with few results.

The problem remained almost a century later.

In 1952, Harry Truman made a prediction about his successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Reflecting on Ike's status as an ex-general, Truman said,"Ike is going to find it hard to be president. He'll have to suffer the experience of giving orders with nothing happening." If he could, Lincoln would have sympathized with Truman's plight.

As the French say,"The more things change, the more they stay the same."
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Robert Hicks's A Separate Peace

This post is in response to an article in Civil War Interactive about Robert Hicks's new book. The headline bills the book as a novel about the Civil War. As I've mentioned in this blog, A Separate Peace largely deals with the Civil War's aftermath. If one could put a percentage on it, the novel is 5% Civil War and the rest concerns Reconstruction. I think it is important for people to be aware.
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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Perils of Coalition

Today in 1862, President Lincoln accepted the resignation of of his War Secretary, Simon Cameron. The man had a corrupt aura to him and rumors had tainted his tenure. Lincoln had taken him on because he had been a powerful Senator from Pennsylvania and he gave that important state its representation in the Cabinet.

Every Administration is a coalition of different interests and regions. To keep a faction happy or at least quiet, a president sometimes has to pick unsavory characters to keep his coalition stable. That is what Lincoln had to do. Every president probably wants decent, honest people serving under him. However, the exigencies of coalition politics can militate against that desire. Lincoln had to make that concession. Fortunately, he did not have to compromise for too long.
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Friday, January 8, 2010

Stonewall's Eccentricities

Today in 1862, Stonewall Jackson ordered a halt for his "foot cavalry" so that his men could take a bath. They stopped at Unger's Store, Virginia and bathed in water he had ordered to be heated.

Stonewall had beliefs on health that were considered strange for his time. To aid his eyesight and disgestion, he sucked on lemons and ate other fruits. He also believed in baths. These were minority views at that time. Today, they are commonplace.

The prevalence of Stonewall's views today show one essential thing: a majority view is not always right.
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year for President Lincoln

I'd first like to explain for my lack of posts in the past month or two. Let's just say life got in the way, big time, and a lot of it has not been good.

However, it was a new year for President Lincoln in 1865. With his new and incoming Administration, he had to attend to the part of the job he hated: the officeseekers. At that time, the President had to interview the men seeking that postmaster job or this judgeship. Lincoln had to serve as his own Human Resources department. Imagine that you could march into the White House and have a fifteen-minute interview with the President. Nowadays, you have to waltz past layers of lax security, like the Salafis recently.

Times were different then.
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