Musings from Southern New Mexico

Month: May 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

So I Saw the Avengers Today…

My son is of the age that he wants to see the “summer blockbusters,” no matter how potentially terrible they are. This was an amusing film, though I still don’t care for the overuse of CGI action in place of storytelling. There were a few other minor things that bothered me, though. Chief among them was a single line from one of the superheroes. Aside: in my cursory search, I only found it in one place. Since this source happened the sad Weekly World News ripoff the “World Net Daily,” I can’t assume it is accurate. In response to a mention of the Norse gods as gods, Captain America responds that there is only one god, and he probably doesn’t dress like that. There are a couple of reasons this pisses me off:

First, I hate this sort of “Being American = Believing in God” bullshit with which we are barraged constantly. In reality, any American soldier, seaman, airman, or marine who feels greater fealty to his imaginary friend(s) than to the U.S. Constitution is only secondarily loyal to his country by definition.

Second, is is actually possible for one to continue to believe in biblical silliness when the existence of superior beings of extraterrestrial origin (that had once been regarded as gods on this very planet) is KNOWN from FIRST HAND experience? That is really a question. If were a serious true believer and you met someone who was thousands of years old with godlike powers and apparent immortality, What would you ask him? Wouldn’t the very first question you asked him relate to whether or not he knew your magic friend?

Source: comicbookbrain

1. Plate from armor of clearly extraterrestrial beast
2. Extraterrestrial being no less than several hundred years old that was once worshiped as a god in Europe.
3. Still believes that despite items 1 and 2, legends of a minor desert civilization (stolen from greater civilizations) in the Middle East are true.

Third, if you are a Christian, wouldn’t planet-wide destruction be substantially similar to the ‘shroom-and-moonshine nightmare of the entire book of Revelation? As a Real Christian™, shouldn’t you be getting ready to hop aboard the Rapture crazy train?

A Letter from General Sherman

As I had earlier mentioned, I would like to include excerpts from a letter written by General Sherman to General Halleck in Washington after the capture of Vicksburg in response to a request for advise on the administration of recaptured territories:

The question of reconstruction in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas, will soon come up for decision of the Government, and not only the length of the war, but our ultimate and complete success, will depend upon its decision.

I think [the President] is disposed to receive the advice of our generals who have been in these States, and know much more of their condition than gassy politicians in Congress. General Banks has written pretty fully, on the subject. I wrote to General Grant, immediately, after the fall of Vicksburg, for his views in regard to Mississippi, but he has not yet answered.

I wish you would consult with Grant, McPherson, and others of cool, good judgment, and write me your views fully, as I may wish to use them with the President.

This was an initial move towards forming a coherent reconstruction strategy, while the end of the war was still some time off. I found it interesting that the war’s eventual outcome already seemed to the high command a foregone conclusion. What I found of particular interest was the delineation of Southern men by type:

I would deem it very unwise at this time, or for years to come, to revive the State governments of Louisiana, etc., or to institute in this quarter any civil government in which the local people have much to say. They had a government so mild and paternal that they gradually forgot they had any at all, save what they themselves controlled; they asserted an absolute right to seize public moneys, forts, arms, and even to shut up the natural avenues of travel and commerce. They chose war—they ignored and denied all the obligations of the solemn contract of government and appealed to force.

We accepted the issue, and now they begin to realize that war is a two-edged sword, and it may be that many of the inhabitants cry for peace. I know them well, and the very impulses of their nature; and to deal with the inhabitants of that part of the South which borders on the great river, we must recognize the classes into which they have divided themselves:

First. The large planters, owning lands, slaves, and all kinds of personal property. These are, on the whole, the ruling class. They are educated, wealthy, and easily approached. In some districts they are bitter as gall, and have given up slaves, plantations, and all, serving in the armies of the Confederacy; whereas, in others, they are conservative. None dare admit a friendship for us, though they say freely that they were at the outset opposed to war and disunion. I know we can manage this class, but only by action. … A civil government of the representative type would suit this class far less than a pure military role, readily adapting itself to actual occurrences, and able to enforce its laws and orders promptly and emphatically.

The scions of the Antebellum South did, indeed, continue in that capacity after the war.

Second. The smaller farmers, mechanics, merchants, and laborers. This class will probably number three-quarters of the whole; have, in fact, no real interest in the establishment of a Southern Confederacy, and have been led or driven into war on the false theory that they were to be benefited somehow—they knew not how. They are essentially tired of the war, and would slink back home if they could. These are the real tiers etat of the South, and are hardly worthy a thought; for they swerve to and fro according to events which they do not comprehend or attempt to shape. When the time for reconstruction comes, they will want the old political system of caucuses, Legislatures, etc., to amuse them and make them believe they are real sovereigns; but in all things they will follow blindly the lead of the planters. The Southern politicians, who understand this class, use them as the French do their masses—seemingly consult their prejudices, while they make their orders and enforce them. We should do the same.

I find it interesting that Sherman identifies this easily influenced sort of people. The same group of people can still be counted on to vote against their own interest with the weakest argument. These were the Rush Limbaugh listeners of the 19th Century.

Third. The Union men of the South. I must confess I have little respect for this class. They allowed a clamorous set of demagogues to muzzle and drive them as a pack of curs. Afraid of shadows, they submit tamely to squads of dragoons, and permit them, without a murmur, to burn their cotton, take their horses, corn, and every thing; and, when we reach them, they are full of complaints if our men take a few fence-rails for fire, or corn to feed our horses. They give us no assistance or information, and are loudest in their complaints at the smallest excesses of our soldiers. Their sons, horses, arms, and every thing useful, are in the army against us, and they stay at home, claiming all the exemptions of peaceful citizens. I account them as nothing in this great game of war.

Fourth. The young bloods of the South: sons of planters, lawyers about towns, good billiard-players and sportsmen, men who never did work and never will. War suits them, and the rascals are brave, fine riders, bold to rashness, and dangerous subjects in every sense. … [T]hey are the most dangerous set of men that this war has turned loose upon the world. They are splendid riders, first-rate shots, and utterly reckless. Stewart, John Morgan, Forrest, and Jackson, are the types and leaders of this class. These men must all be killed or employed by us before we can hope for peace. They have no property or future, and therefore cannot be influenced by any thing, except personal considerations. …

Here, Sherman was eerily prescient. Men of this type did continue in extra-legal paramilitary pursuits in the form of terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan (Forrest) or criminal organizations such as the James Gang. Many infamous outlaws of the Old West were born of that group.

Now that I have sketched the people who inhabit the district of country under consideration, I will proceed to discuss the future.

A civil government now, for any part of it, would be simply ridiculous. The people would not regard it, and even the military commanders of the antagonistic parties would treat it lightly. Governors would be simply petitioners for military assistance, to protect supposed friendly interests, and military commanders would refuse to disperse and weaken their armies for military reasons. Jealousies would arise between the two conflicting powers, and, instead of contributing to the end of the war, would actually defer it. Therefore, I contend that the interests of the United States, and of the real parties concerned, demand the continuance of the simple military role, till after all the organized armies of the South are dispersed, conquered, and subjugated.

God knows that I deplore this fratricidal war as much as any man living, but it is upon us, a physical fact; and there is only one honorable issue from it. We must fight it out, army against army, and man against man; and I know, and you know, and civilians begin to realize the fact, that reconciliation and reconstruction will be easier through and by means of strong, well-equipped, and organized armies than through any species of conventions that can be framed. The issues are made, and all discussion is out of place and ridiculous. The section of thirty-pounder Parrott rifles now drilling before my tent is a more convincing argument than the largest Democratic meeting the State of New York can possibly assemble at Albany; and a simple order of the War Department to draft enough men to fill our skeleton regiments would be more convincing as to our national perpetuity than an humble pardon to Jeff. Davis and all his misled host.

The only government needed or deserved by the States of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, now exists in Grant’s army. … The people of this country have forfeited all right to a voice in the councils of the nation. They know it and feel it, and in after-years they will be the better citizens from the dear bought experience of the present crisis. … As a nation, we shall be the better for it.

I therefore hope the Government of the United States will continue, as heretofore, to collect, in well-organized armies, the physical strength of the nation; applying it, as heretofore, in asserting the national authority; and in persevering, without relaxation, to the end. This, whether near or far off, is not for us to say; but, fortunately, we have no choice. We must succeed—no other choice is left us except degradation. The South must be ruled by us, or she will rule us. We must conquer them, or ourselves be conquered. There is no middle course. They ask, and will have, nothing else, and talk of compromise is bosh; for we know they would even scorn the offer.
I wish the war could have been deferred for twenty years, till the superabundant population of the North could flow in and replace the losses sustained by war; but this could not be, and we are forced to take things as they are.

All therefore I can now venture to advise is to raise the draft to its maximum, fill the present regiments to as large a standard as possible, and push the war, pure and simple.

Excuse so long a letter. With great respect, etc.,

W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.

This is first place where we see the strategy that will forever come to be identified with Sherman: pursuing a peace by ending the enemy’s ability to make war.

Sherman went on to intimate that President Lincoln had wished to have the letter published. Not wishing to be embroiled in controversy, however, General Sherman declined.

Most Dangerous Time?

I saw this quote from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today:

“In my personal military judgment, formed over 38 years, we are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime right now…”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General Dempsey (16 February 2012)

It is from an article at entitled Panetta, Dempsey: Sequestration Would Defeat Defense Strategy.

I beg to differ.

Over 600,000 Americans were killed in the American Civil War.

Over 500,000 Americans died in the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918.

Over 400,000 Americans were killed in World War II.

The Cuban Missile Crisis nearly brought about planet-wide destruction. Only recently has it become widely known just how close we came to oblivion.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few individual events that were far more dangerous than the sum total of credible threats extant in the world today.

Catastrophic climate change aside, that is…

Review: The Memoirs of General William T. Sherman, Kindle Version

Source: Wikipedia

The Memoirs of General William T. Sherman
Volumes I & II
by William Tecumseh Sherman
Volume I: 436 pages
Volume II 310 pages
Public Domain Books, 2004

Digging through the “Available for free download” pages at Amazon, I found this interesting item. I was to be at sea for a while, with little to do during off time. I wasn’t sure what I was in for and didn’t expect what I found.

Sherman began his work with a brief background. From his family history to his early days in the Army, his delivery is so prosaic that it is easy to forget the presence of some stories that should have been interesting. From the tail end of his Army career on, however, Sherman’s fortunes got downright boring. He even managed to downplay his direct involvement in such things as the original California gold strikes and armed near-insurrections in the gold-crazed Bay Area. As boring as I consider the business of banking, Sherman manages to lower my expectations.

Thankfully, any reader of this book is likely to have a very different interest: the Civil War.

When Sherman begins this part of the book, the tone of the work changes. Rather than simple narrative, he begins to rely more and more on reproductions of original letters, orders, and articles. The difficulty of this is that the reader does not get impressions of the importance of some of the individual actions. In places, a battle of relatively little significance overall is given as much attention as something monumental. In a way, though, this is refreshing. Absent exhaustive analysis ex post facto, we get a better feel for how things must have been in the eyes of the participants. Strangely, we see that Sherman’s abilities with the written word are found more in his official documents than in his narrative prose.

I didn’t begin to really note interesting passages until the second volume (with one exception, but I will address that by itself at a later time). This is from a letter to a delegation representing the city of Atlanta:

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace.

Letters from his colleagues also begin to show the change in martial philosophy late in the war. General Halleck was a bit more direct in addressing the possibilities should Sherman enter Charleston:

Should you capture Charleston, I hope that by some accident the place may be destroyed, and, if a little salt should be sown upon its site, it may prevent the growth of future crops of nullification and secession.

Sherman responds:

I attach more importance to these deep incisions into the enemy’s country, because this war differs from European wars in this particular: we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.

I will bear in mind your hint as to Charleston, and do not think “salt” will be necessary.

Sherman explains to others that economic interests should be addressed in negative terms. That is to say that the Army and civilian authorities must be careful not to start up the economies of subjugated areas to vigorously, as the spoils may make their way to Lee’s army.

On one occasion, Sherman was to witness an interview of some black camp followers. I though their representative’s response to one question interesting:

Fourth Question. State in what manner you would rather live — whether scattered among the whites, or in colonies by yourselves?

Answer. I would prefer to live by ourselves, for there is a prejudice against us in the South that will take years to get over; …”

On his dealings with President Abraham Lincoln:

Of all the men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other.

As the war draws to a close, Sherman begins to detail military lessons of the war. These, it turns out, continue to be applicable. I will leave those for a separate discussion.

Finally, Sherman details the conflicts between himself and the Fourth Estate throughout the book. Near the end, the conflicts seem to center on President Johnson, Secretary of War Stanton, General (and, later, President) Grant, and himself. I am not generally interested in these sorts of intrigues, but they are of historical significance to those wishing to understand the Civil War and the state of the post-war military and government. Indeed, this is an important work for that purpose. But I find the most important insights in two areas which, as I’ve said, I will address separately. I have long felt that Sherman’s contribution to the war was underrated, but now I see that even his philosophy seems to have been necessary to complete the subjugation of the Confederacy.

Around the Pacific

A light drizzle formed this rainbow over some old landing ships.

Sunset seems to last a lot longer when there are no other distractions around.

Shortly after the sun set on one side of the boat, the moon rose over the other. Unfortunately, every case a cloud layer obscured any heavenly body breaking the horizon.

Another cloudy sunset.

A distant rain is visible above our wake.

It was difficult to capture the moon at night. The rocking of the vessel made a long exposure impractical, so the pictures came out dark.

Sometimes the afternoon cloud cover did interesting things with the light.

Here, a mahimahi is being pulled from the water. There were two caught on this trip.

The Arizona Memorial (right) marked America's entry into World War II on 7 December, 1941. The surrender of Japan took place aboard the U.S.S. Missouri (left) on 2 September, 1945.

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