God punishes us for our sins. I am an amateur student of history, particularly the American Civil War. This, of course, I had to pick up entirely on my own, as 12 years of public school, four years …
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God punishes us for our sins.
I am an amateur student of history, particularly the American Civil War. This, of course, I had to pick up entirely on my own, as 12 years of public school, four years … never mind. Another rant, another day.
One thing I come away from every new venture into the Civil War is this: the American Civil War was not won by the Union — it was lost by the Confederacy. The Civil War is not to be studied for brilliance of tactics and clarity of execution; it should be studied for the random foolishness of and, sometimes, outright stupidity of its generals. For example: the turning event of the war was, arguably, the Battle of Gettysburg. For three days in early July — yep, next week — in a field in southern Pennsylvania, the Army of Northern Virginia under the leadership of the foremost military tactician of the day, General Robert E. Lee, did battle with the Army of the Potomac under the leadership of General George Meade. On paper, it was a huge tactical mismatch — akin to Mike Shanahan going into a Super Bowl against a team coached by Vance Joseph.
But, in one of those bizarre events best explained by Providence, General Lee screwed up. Massively. First of all, he staked out the ground without his best cavalry, which, at that point in the war, was the equivalent of his reconnaissance and military intelligence. General J.E.B. Stuart ended up being forced to take the “scenic route” to Gettysburg, and so Lee ended up in a battle that he had not anticipated. And then, after two brutal days of battle which saw neither side gain a decided advantage, he ordered an infantry charge across a half-mile of uphill terrain against fortified positions. “Pickett’s Charge,” as it has come to be known, was, as you might guess, a slaughter.
But, even so, it took a full 21 months before the Civil War formally ended. Thousands of lives were wasted after Gettysburg in a lost cause, because Meade, like so many Union generals before him, inexplicably, allowed the Confederate Army to escape. Sometimes, it was weak generalship (ahem, McClellan), sometimes it was bad luck, and sometimes it was an abundance of caution, like waiting for an engineering corps to build really good pontoons to cross a river, which took weeks, rather than attack a crippled army and get a little wet. The whole war is, in my estimation, a case study in a “Tragedy of Errors.”
And that’s not the only war that fits that description. Other than the obvious observation that all wars are tragedies, the truth is, most wars are tragedies of errors. Look at World War I—there was a chance that the Germans could have ended it in the first month, but, weirdly, made a bad left turn. A German win would have been bad, but that German blunder condemned the world to three more years of that war plus another six, 22 years later.
Wars are usually unnecessary, and could end quickly. But God punishes us for our sins.
We freed the slaves, but we did not abolish racism; we stitched the country back together, but we did not guarantee that every person had a full chance to participate. And now the stitches are fraying.
Lincoln warned us:
“if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’”
For it seems now, after 155 years of fermenting, all that is left is “malice towards all, with charity for none.”
PS I must apologize to all legitimate scholars of the U.S. Civil War. I am aware my interpretations likely reflect my … amateurism.
Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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