I’m to the point now where I’m finishing the section about the evacuation of Manila in 1941. The congruity of writing this story around the 150th anniversaries of Columbia’s fall, Charleston’s fall, and the impending evacuation of Richmond casts a new light on all four events. They all offer the same drama, one of evacuating major military and civil personnel and stores while racing against time and an enemy at the gates. The human drama is intense, and not often found in American history – the evacuation of Washington in 1814 comes close.
But it is more than that – these cities’ collapse presage the end of an era. World War II knocked Manila from its perch as “Pearl of the Orient,” and the city has never fully recovered. The fall of these Confederate cities ended the dream of Confederate independence, and to a greater or lesser degree define each of them today.
For participants, the fall of these cities was an emotional wrench, and left scars that never fully healed. These have often rippled across subsequent generations.
In world history, the closest parallels from the last 150 years (“comparison cases” if you will) that come to mind are Madrid 1939, Warsaw 1939/44, Paris 1940, Singapore 1942, and Saigon 1975. Put in that perspective, the fall of the Confederacy takes on a new depth.
Top illustration: An Open City sign in downtown Manila, January 2, 1942.