America Goes to War: The Civil War and Its Meaning in by Bruce Catton

By Bruce Catton

A desirable examine of the 1st glossy battle and its impression on American tradition.

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He had fought at Fort Donelson, and compared with these recruits he was a veteran. " 61 America Goes to War And the regiment stayed there, unled, and fought all day long. Civil War officers quickly learned one thing about green troops which were shoved into battle that way. They would either run away quickly, after the first volley, or they would not run away at all. At Shiloh, a great many did run; after the battle was a couple of hours old, probably a fourth of Grant's army was huddled under the shelter of the river bank in the rear, completely leaderless and useless.

The good and the bad came together, as they usually do in politics, and in the end the good greatly outweighed the bad. Back of the military campaigns, the selection of generals, the choice of strategic objectives, and all the rest, the Northern leaders never once forgot that what they really had on their hands was a political problem. It was like no political problem the nation had ever seen before, to be sure; it was enormous, violent, tragic, explosive; but it was basically a political problem and in the end it was handled as one.

If one of his helpers brought in a substantial number, that man would possibly be rewarded with a commission as lieutenant or captain; and the man in charge of the whole effort would, of course, become the colonel. In a great many cases, the individual companies would elect their own officers; very often, the colonel himself was elected by the men. I review this to emphasize that in the average regiment the officers were people whom the enlisted men had known all of their lives. The colonel or the major might, indeed, be a "leading citizen" of such stature that few of the recruits had ever been intimate with him, but the company officers had usually been on a first-name basis with their men for years.

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