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US: Civil War combat



The History Channel classroom series in the Civil War is titled "Civil War combat", indicating that it is devoted almost exclusively to the battles, not general aspects of the war. Several considerations may be deduced from these battles. One is the religious aspect of the war, as illustrated in Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, who is revered by Southerners as second only to Robert E. Lee. That there is still strong disagreement about the Civil War is evident from the WAIS exchange. Southerners used the nickname "Stonewall" admiringly, Northerners sarcastically- The Puritanical North was motivated by religion, the South clearly less so. Yet Jackson, influenced by his second wife, became a zealous Presbyterian and was known as Deacon Jackson. Has any other hero had two nicknames? He railed against the Northerners as the enemies of God. He was really a rather odd fellow. He won his second nickname at the Battle of Bull Run. He played an important role in the Seven Days battles, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, where he was accidentally shot by his own men and died. To the end he thought he was doing the work of God.

The second element was the search for glory, and this is where Napoleon comes in. "The day of glory has arrived, the impure blood of our enemies will irrigate our fields". The Marseillaise is perhaps the most bloodthirsty of national anthems, the Brazilian the most peace-loving. The Napoleonic love of glory brought about defeat. It has always seemed blindly odd that the French should revere the Arc de Triomphe, whereas it turned out to be the archway of defeat. This is all very un-Christian: " Glory be to God on high, peace toward men of goodwill". The search for military glory may be a sad but irradicable part of man's nature. I said man's. Despite Victor Hugo, Napoleon III was glorious until the defeat in 1870. He established the empire of Maximilian during the Civil War. Then there was the French connection in Louisiana, embodied in another Southern hero, General Gustave Toutant Beauregard. Significantly, the biography of him by T. Harry Williams is titled P.G.T. Beauregard, Napoleon in Grey (1954). There ought to be a study of the Confederacy and France. The battles were fought on Napoleonic principles, for example that attackers must be at least three times as numerous as defending enemies.

Some even imitated the military dress of the French, notably the gaudy uniform of the Zouaves, with brilliant red ballooning pants. The name comes from the name of a Moroccan tribe which wove the cloth from which the uniforms were made. The Zouaves were regiments created in 1831 for service in Algeria. My guess is that some of the French troops who invaded Mexico were wearing Zouave uniform. The adoption of the Zouave uniform in the Civil War was doubly unfortunate. The red ballooning pants made excellent targets, and some Northerners also adopted the uniform, leading to chaos in the battles.

The present protests against the war with which the US threatens Saddam Hussein are largely the result of Vietnam. Before that it was customary to enter a war assuming that it would be short and glorious. Such was the case in the American Civil War. It was only slowly that its futility and horror became apparent. Perhaps humanity has progressed.

Ronald Hilton - 11/22/02


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