« La Pucelle | Main | Famous Last Words, Or Something Like That... »

October 25, 2007


Robbo the Llama Butcher

Well played, Sir.

Buford wasn't at the skirmish at Kelly's Ford (another surprisingly aggressive Union cavalry move) prior to Chancellorsville, was he? I know that he led an unprecedented Yankee cavalry charge on the far left flank at Second Manassas that temporarily stunned the Rebel horse opposite him, although they quickly regained their composure and drove him from the field.

My own pet historickal theory dates from about 100 years before: the British move toward Ft. Duquesne (led by George Washington) in its effort to wrest control of the Ohio River Valley from France precipitated a continent-wide alignment of European allies with each of these powers for the Seven Years' War. Frederick the Great allied Prussia with Britain, causing his enemy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to turn to France (with which it did not have a history of sympathy). To seal that alliance, Maria Theresa eventually sent her daughter, Marie Antoinette, to Paris to wed the Dauphin (later Louis XVI). The rest, as they say, is history, but I've always thought it rayther hard that poor Antoinette essentially lost her head because of .....Pittsburgh.

Mrs. Peperium

Love the pug Mr. P. You have such a way with pictures.

My pet theory is the more educated the person is, the more boring they are. Now Mr. P, you must (by honour) put your theory with mine and see what the outcome is....General McCellan, I think.

Time to don the apron. The lunchroom beckons.

Mr. Peperium

Yes, Robbo, when you start connecting dots you do come up with some striking statements. Essentially, Marie Antoinette was killed by George Washington's thrist for military glory.

But Mrs. P's theory, I'm afraid, falls to the ground. I've always found McClellan a fascinating figure because of his flaws brought on by his being, as one contemporary put it, "chock full of big war science".

Mrs. Peperium

Funny. I would say describing a man as "chock full of big war science" is just a more genteel way of saying he was a perfect bore. And his boringness (is that a word?) was most on display with the way he fought, or more accurately, did not fight. He just stood around and tried to look good. Which he did. But that tactic only works for so long.

Mrs. Peperium

Mr. P, I did it. Two dalamatian costumes done with a bit more than three hours to spare. Come home early please. I need you to fill the flask with rum so you can spike my cider on the hayride..it's going to be quite chilly tonight and I'm still seeing spots...

Old Dominion Tory

General McClellan deserves a lot more credit than he often receives. It was he who built the Army of the Potomac into a formidable fighting machine, instilling in it a strong sense of purpose and discipline.
Considering the condition of the pre-war Army--and the fact that many of its officers had left for service in the Confederacy--this was no mean feat.
McClellan was a close student of the French Army under Napoleon as well as the contemporary French Army (he served as an observer with the French Army during the Crimean War).
However, as much as he appreciated Napoleon and French military elan, McClellan never seems to have developed audacity--perhaps understood best as a willingness to hazard a battle on one throw--on anything close to a Napoleonic level. A little more audacity might have served him better during the Peninsula Campaign and, almost certainly, could have won him the Battle of Antietam.
Perhaps, this lack of audacity was born out of concern for his army. Maybe, the lack of reliable intelligence that vexed the Army of the Potomac until it developed a reliable cavalry arm and McClellan's knowledge that his Army was what stood between the rebellion and the nation's capital contributed to it as well.

Old Dominion Tory

Now, as to Mr. Peperium's pet theory. I can see his point--that the embarrassment over the Brandy Station fight led Stuart to attempt to redeem his reputation by emarking on another free-wheeling ride "around the Union Army." This absence deprived Lee of information about the Army of the Potomac's whereabouts which caused him to blunder about blindly in the Pennsylvania countryside until fate brought him to Gettysburg.
But Lee could have extricated his Army from the Gettysburg battlefield if he had found it not to his liking. He was under no requirement to attack on the second day, just as he was under no requiremnt to attack on the third day.
I think Lee wanted a Napoleonic outcome, the big victory on the lines of Jena and Austerlitz, to Gettysburg just as much as any of his contemporaries did. To borrow a phrase from Shelby Foote, his blood was up. And, in the Army of Northern Virginia, he saw the instrument to win that battle. Considering his Army's record to the battle--e.g., Second Manassas, Chancellorsville--it is easy to understand why.
So, while I'll give Mr. Peperium credit for his theory and General Buford credit for his actions in the spring and summer of 1863, I hold that the biggest influence on the Battle of Gettysburg was Robert E. Lee.


I've got my own pet theory to promenade (though I don't think it'll win best in show).

I think Hitler never would have risen to power, and WWII (and all its devastation) thus averted, if America hadn't been so intent on foisting democracy upon a post-war Germany completely unused to the concept. If the German people, defeated, humiliated, in impossible debt, had had a focal point to rally round, a ruler to look up to as it always had--if not a Kaiser than a constitutional monarch perhaps--they never would have fallen prey to the tour de force that was Hitler. Instead, the unruly masses had, essentially, the unruly masses to look to; the gaping void left during the Weimar Republic was impossible to sustain. It was destined to be filled by the violence and the energy of Hitler.

I'm not the first to think thus; Churchill would have agreed.

Let the fur fly.

Andrew Cusack

Well, Germany had been a democracy before the war, but it should be needless to say by now that the Allied Powers' policy towards the Central Powers was one which lead to many disasters.

Among other things, the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire meant the end of Danubian free trade, and the erection of prohibitive tariff barriers which significantly worsened the lot of your average Joe Peasant.

Andrew Cusack

'Led' not 'lead', rather.

Robbo the Llama Butcher

I think the lack of audacity on the part of George McClellan was probably born primarily out of his concern for George McClellan, both in terms of military prestige and in terms of political calculations.

Mrs. Peperium

Again, an apt description of a boring person:

"I think the lack of audacity on the part of George McClellan was probably born primarily out of his concern for George McClellan..."

Okay, here's my historical pet theory, the Decembrists caused Russia to become the Soviet Union. How did they do this? Easy. They were the original '60's generation. Had they not been the rebels against their parents and societal dropouts they were and instead grown up to be useful men - useful to Mother Russia that is, then Czar Nicholas and his father would have had much better counsel among their advisors. Instead the Decembrists did what they did, and Czar Nicholas and his dad ended up many years later drawing the B team for advisors.

If I think about it, I can make it sound more intelligent and convincing. I just haven't thought about my old pet theory for at least 10 years. By the way, you've got to love the Decembrists were packed up and sent off to Siberia. Oh, if only we had done that with algore....

Andrew Cusack

"The Decembrist leaders had to lie to their soldiers to get them to participate in the abortive regime change, telling them that it was to restore the deposed Czar Constantine over his vicious younger brother, Nicholas I. Their rallying cry, 'Long live Constantine! Long live the Constitution!' was taken up by the rank-and-file only because it was assumed that the word 'Constitution' referred to Constantine’s wife!"

-- Michael Weiss, 'The sensation of liberty', The New Criterion, October 2007


When I wrote "foisting democracy upon a post-war Germany", I meant, of course, post-WWI Germany. The only other time democracy had been attempted before then was in 1848, and it lasted only about a year.

Andrew Cusack

Actually the Reichstag was elected by universal male suffrage from 1871 onwards.

Andrew Cusack

Well, "onwards" until the Nazis, that is.


Very true. Germany was among the first to introduce universal suffrage. My meaning would have been clearer if I'd used the phrase "liberal democracy" in my original comment.

The Reichstag represented a type of democracy, an haut bourgeois type, where unimportant bills were passed by permission of the aristocray, with Chancellor Bismarck holding almost absolute power, and later Emperor Wilhelm II--a quite different model from that the U.S. insisted on for post-war Germany.


Addendum: In the vein of Mr. P's whimsically written piece, my pet theory is meant to be taken with a grain of salt (or cat litter, whatever you wish). There were myriad causes for WWII, as we all well know...

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

It Goes Without Saying

  • All original material published here is the property of the writer who penned it. Stealing is not only frowned upon but will be dealt with by strong-armed men trained in the art of legal jujitsu. The views put forth here are not the views of any employer we know which is most unfortunate.
Blog powered by Typepad