Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Don’t just do something, stand there.

My brother has been doing a lot of thinking and reading about the Civil War lately. He has been doing this as part of project that started out simply as a desire to help my aunt organize and write a book from all the genealogical information she had accumulated. She has a lot of information she had inherited from her mother, aunts and uncles and grandparents. To this she has added a great deal of information from her own research, traveling all over the country, especially in last few years since she has retired from a career as a librarian.

Of all this information some of the most tantalizing was the handwritten partial Civil War diary of our great-grandfather who had been a white officer with "colored" troops during the Civil War. It was tantalizing and frustrating because we only have parts of the diary and also because there were so many topics and details that we would be interested in today that our g-grandfather had apparently not considered of note and had not written about. In order to make this diary interesting to modern readers my brother feels he needs to add context and additional detail and therefore he has been doing a lot of reading.

Not much has been written about the colored troops in the Civil War and what has been written has little or nothing to say about their training, focusing instead on what they did in battle. The diary, at least the parts we have, is almost all about training and non-combat activities, because that is what most days of a Civil War soldier consisted of, especially the colored troops – the generals did not know how well they would do in combat and so often assigned them other tasks.

As a result of his research my brother is starting to develop some interesting ideas. It is well known that 80% of the soldier fatalities during the Civil War were from non-combat causes. It is also well known that the South was not so much defeated on the battlefield as much as they were defeated by a lack of resources—the Northern blockade of their ports and the lack of a manufacturing base made their defeat inevitable. Those facts suggest to my brother that the North did not really need to fight at all. All that was needed was to blockade the ports, raise a huge army to protect Washington D.C. and to prevent the Southern armies from invading the North and wait until disease, internal dissention and the lack of supplies defeated them. Lincoln's need for military victories was for political reasons, not a military or logistical necessity. What do you think?

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