Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Testing Times

I was schlumping through my news safari and found a "What General Are You" test on The Corner. Thanks, Mr. Goldberg.

Ulysses S. Grant

You scored 62 Wisdom, 58 Tactics, 65 Guts, and 59 Ruthlessness!

Like you, Grant went about the distasteful business of war realistically and grimly. His courage as a commander of forces and his powers of organization and administration made him the outstanding Northern general. Grant, though, had no problem throwing away lives on huge sieges of heavily defended positions. At times, Union casualties under Grant were over double that of the Confederacy. However, Grant was notably wise in supporting good commanders, especially Sheridan , William T. Sherman , and George H. Thomas. Made a full general in 1866, he was the first U.S. citizen to hold that rank.

Grant was a quartermaster during the Mexican War. A supply guy.

In his first battle as supreme commander of the Union Army Grant lead the Army of the Potomac across the Rapidan River, intent on destroying the Army of Northern Virginia. Combat was joined in a densely forested area known simply as "The Wilderness" and raged for six days and nights. The battle was fought first by regiments, then battalions, and finally fragments of companies and confused stragglers in burning summer heat and in nights lit by forest fires. Wounded men of both sides burned to death in the fires, and their screams figure prominently in diary and historical accounts of the battle.

When Grant finally began assembling his men on the far side of the Wilderness they were exhausted, filthy, and dispirited. In his first battle, he had lost thousands of men, and Lee had withdrawn a short distance and entrenched in the hopes that Grant would reprise the mistakes of Fredericksburg.

The Army of the Potomac had fought for four years across the same bloody strip of ground between Richmond and Washington, D.C.. Even when they managed to win a battle, the soldiers had always been ordered back to the District by their timid commanders. Much more often, the preceding springs of war had opened with grand Union offensives that ended in disgraceful shambles and ignominious defeats.

For four years, the Confederacy had whipped the Federals in battle and watched them march away.

Grant changed that. Upon reorganizing the bulk of his army, he laid a holding force on the entrenchments in front of him and issued the order to advance right, along Lee's lines. The Commander's Intent was published: the objective remained to find a flank or a weakness, and then attack with the maximum concentration of force with the objective of destroying the Army of Northern Virginia.

The Army of the Potomac raised a cheer. There were very few green recruits in the Army of the Potomac by the spring of 1864. They were veterans - many who had reenlisted after their first three year term - who knew full well what battle meant, even if the horrors to come in 1864 and 1865 eventually eclipsed what had passed before. Those men had fought under MacClellan, Hooker, and Burnside, only to be committed piecemeal to fights that would have been won had they been lead properly. They had fought and beaten Lee at Gettysberg in July of 1863, under Meade, only to watch the Confederates withdraw to fight another day.

They cheered, knowing that victory was in reach. And knowing the price that would likely be paid.

Grant fought a war of attrition because he knew that the Union could not lose the war except by refusing to use its power without restraint or remorse. He knew that the Confederacy had able leaders, but was incapable of fielding or equipping armies as was the North.

He also knew that there is nothing more contemptible in leadership than refusing to do the duty necessary to win.

The war we fight today began over thirty years ago. That a majority of us belatedly realized it was actually in progress only after the enemy managed to hit us at home is a sad testament of our complacency.

The anti-American crowd is celebrating an artificial data point today. 2000 is just a number. It doesn't mean anything at all when stacked up against the numbers of fallen over the last three decades, except this:

Those fallen men and women were fighting back.

The ones who remain in the fight are depending on us to stay the course until the job is done. For the next little while we have a leader who will do what is necessary to win. They are the most magnificent Americans of this generation. I give thanks for them every single day.

Will we do our part?

UPDATE: Bum link to the NRO Corner fixed.

I wrote the above post in about an hour, then walked away for an hour, then came back and diced/shuffled/cut/pasted/reworded for about fifteen minutes. The result: the cream got tossed out with the curds. Doesn't it just make you want to tear your hair out when you edit out the main point of a long essay?

Grant not only knew he had the tools at hand to win - he also knew, implicitly, the soul of the enemy. He knew that the landed southern aristocracy had to be destroyed. Until the self-annointed feudal lords of cotton quit leading their serfs into battle, there would always be a next battle. He and Sherman exchanged letters on this subject, and they make fascinating reading. They discussed many possible outcomes to the war, ranging from political collapse on the part of the North to a decades-long insurgency threat to be faced if the war ended any other way than unconditional surrender on the part of the south.

Democracy can work anywhere - once you've prepped the field. For it to work in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond, we still have to kill quite a few more Islamic Jeff Davis's and Nathan Bedford Forrests.

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