Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Civil War Lives On 3

During the Civil War a quantum leap occurred that changed the way in which humans conducted war against one another. The spring campaign of 1864 began with Grant and the Army of the Potomac attacking Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia at a place that came to be called The Wilderness.
When that battle ended [on balance, one could argue that the North had been defeated by the South yet again] Grant should have followed an unwritten but time-honored tradition: break off engagement with the enemy to assess and regroup. That is what had happened throughout history. Virtually all the great battles of the past - Marathon, Actium, Austerlitz, even Gettysburg – could be summarized as two blind giants stumbling into and then pummeling each other for a day or two, and then disengaging. The Battle of Hastings, for example, which decided the dynastic future of the English throne was done in an afternoon. But when the Battle of the Wilderness concluded, Grant’s order was ‘flank to the left.’ His immediate purpose was to position himself between Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, and the Army of Northern Virginia, which was charged among other things with Richmond’s defense. Lee [nickname: ‘King of Spades’] moved quickly to take up a defensive position and prevented that from happening. For the rest of 1864 the two armies grappled with each other zigzagging southward – but did not disengage. Such a relentless strategy was the beginning of what a later century would come to call total war.

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