Question of the Week: 8/19-8/25/19

Last week we noticed an interesting question from one of our readers and thought it would make a great discussion starter:

Have your views on aspects of the war changed over the course of your learning? If so, please give specific examples.

10 Responses to Question of the Week: 8/19-8/25/19

  1. Texting with old fingers. One word answer. Vietnam. First, being in a war is very different from reading about it. Second, the effects on the civilian popuulation are profound and,almost unfathomable. Not reserved to vn but that was my civil war. H

    1. Thank you for your service, Henry. I had cousins who went; fortunately, all came back.
      Because of the efforts of Project Gutenburg, and HathiTrust (scanning out-of-print biographies and references onto the internet) and sites such as ECW, my High School civil war condensed history, heavily influenced by Bruce Catton, has been augmented to the point where I know baseball was being played prior to the Civil War; mortars and “torpedoes” were significant weapons, and potential game changers at several battles; the neighbor vs. neighbor conflict in Missouri and Kansas was bloodier than I realized; the Dakota War west of Minnesota was an unfortunate extension of the War of the Rebellion; General U.S. Grant was not as great as I was lead to believe (but he had a great promotion team, that doubled as Staff officers. Joseph Rose put me onto this last revelation.)
      “When you stop learning, you start dying.”

  2. Almost everything I thought I knew about the Civil War was either a half truth or dead wrong when, as an adult, I started a serious study of the subject.

  3. The extent of the political meddling on both sides, as well as the (often) back biting and the underhandedness among the military types. That seemed to ne a hallmark of both sides. It’s a wonder anything was accomplished..

  4. Your thought provoking question triggered at least two things: The first is a feeling that too often many of the comments and posting by various sources still seem to fall into a pattern of glorifying the Civil War and war in general. I want to be quick to admit that I do not have military credentials and admire men like Henry who know first hand the horrors and perils of fighting a war. I would hope that people can learn to grasp the reality that war should definitely be a last resort choice. The second thought is closely related in respect to the apparent dearth of true teaching of our country’s Civil War history. Perhaps if our descendant’s better understood what it really means we might be less likely to repeat the tragic mistakes of the past.

  5. The considerable logistical problems and geographic reach in the Western Theater really stand out to this native of Virginia. Another thing is that history tends to be written by the survivors (at least the survivors who like to write). Joshua Chamberlain, defender of the flank at Little Round Top, survived the war. David Ireland, defender of the flank at Culp’s Hill, did not survive the war.

  6. I think the one discrete area where my views have changed concerns the confrontation at the Potomac at the end of Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg. My initial position was that Meade should have attacked, but over time I came around to understanding that Lee’s position was too strong for an attack to work. I still believe that Meade mis-handled several aspects of his pursuit, though.

  7. I had little interest in the Civil War until I took an American History class in college. I was a night student at Rutgers, and the instructor was an Assistant Prof. at Princeton, working under Prof. McPherson. When he asked the cause of the Civil War, and I answered “states rights”, I got a HUGE “NO” on my test paper. My view of the Civil War was changed by this man. I now believe in Prof. McPherson’s statement (and I paraphrase) “The sole cause of the Civil War was slavery. Everything else was an excuse.”

    1. Interesting how the wheel revolves… because the high school history administered in Rock Island County forty years ago promoted, “Slavery was the underlying cause of the war.” To which I have added through personal research: “Slavery was the underlying cause, but the situation that led to war being eagerly embraced by both sides was more complex that any one word could describe.”

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