We do a lot of reading lists on my blog. What is one book
you’ve read lately that you think should be better known?
General Petraeus: Bruce Catton’s Grant Takes Command (and
Smith’s Grant). Both support historian Sean Wilentz’ recent
assertion that Grant was a truly great commander and president, vastly
better than historians assessed some years back.
I am a big fan of General Ulysses S Grant and think that he is a greatly underappreciated American hero – in case, somehow, you didn’t know . I love that people are starting to relook at Grant and, in doing so, are seeing his humanity and greatness. But Grant being underappreciated is part of a bigger picture that includes Confederate History Month.
From – oh, say – the turn of the last century to the 1950s, the southern revisionists rewrote both slavery and the Civil War. The novel, Gone With the Wind, with its defense of the Ku Klux Klan and depiction of happy slaves was an example of this. The crux of the revision was that the war was not about slavery and that the North, lead by the inept butcher, Grant, only won because they out numbered and out resourced the noble South and because Grant was willing to lose more men than the superior man and general, Robert E Lee.
That is hooey. The war was clearly about slavery, the abomination that had been tearing at the fabric of the United States since the 3/5’s clause was put in the Constitution. South Carolina was the first state to secede and, following its secession, South Carolina requested the other southern states to join them in forming a southern Confederacy. It said We . . . [are] dissolving a union with non-slaveholding confederates and seeking a confederation with slaveholding states.
Mississippi became the second state to secede, and it said Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. . . . [A] blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.
The other states that followed had similar statements. Fifty years later, these statements transmogrified into the so-called virtuous goals of states rights, independence, and the protection of traditional values. But those traditional values and states rights were slavery.
The North won the Civil War for lots of reasons including that it outnumbered and out resourced the South but the South had the advantage of being on the defensive. It knew the ground it was defending and always had shorter lines of communication and supply. It is much easier to defend a position than take it it.
But the North had better generals in Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Thomas, among others. Especially Grant. The generals on the North were younger, they were more adaptive and more inventive, and they had a more compelling vision. As always happens – given enough time – the future won over the past.
So now I come to Confederate History Month – which I don’t understand any more than I understand displaying the confederate battle flag. As an aside. Often people who display the confederate battle flag have the common decency to also display the swastika so, at least, we know that they are just pissed at everybody. End aside.
But why Confederate History Month? What is it about a feudal society that supported itself by slavery that they find so compelling? The Virginia proclamation, which seems to have received the most PR, starts out WHEREAS, April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse;
As Reagan once said There you go again…. Here we have the war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox. Concluded? As when Lee surrendered? So, I guess, it makes sense if the celebration is for a war of independence that was not lost, but just, you know, concluded. I think we should celebrate a North Kicked the South’s Ass Month to celebrate that the war concluded for Virginia when Bobbie Lee surrendered his sorry, whooped, ass to General Ulysses S Grant.