Friday, August 04, 2006

CWL --- A Single Grand Victory: Manassas 1861

You may recall from you public library or you middle school/high school library a book, Edward Creasy's Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World from Marathon to Waterloo. You may have encountered a revised version that included all the 19th century or even the edition that included WWII.

The original edition was 1851 and became an immediate and constant bestseller for the remainder of the 19th century. John Keegan writes that Creasy's intention was to offer a 'jolly good read' and oversimplied his analysis in order to reach a general audience. Creasy's idea of indentifably decisive battles took hold among the general readership.

On a single day on a single battlefield an army could be annihilated or rescued, a nation could be destroyed or saved, and an empire could be founded or meet its demise. The general of the victorious army must be brilliant. Logistics, political factors, and strategy are secondary factors. The virtue and character of the commanders is the decisive factor of the decisive battle. Brillant commanders with courageous armies make decisive victories.

The expectations for a single, grand victory by Northerners and Southerners, their newspaper editors, and their political leaders were based up on the virtue of their societies. Having honor-bound societies with God-on-their-side, with superior versions of capitalism, the North and the South contemplated each other. In the eyes of the South, the North was a mud-sill society of wage slaves, ruled by Yankee merchants and bankers and the seedbed of radical, free love abolitionists. In the eyes of the North, the South was an indolent society of poor farmers and wealthly slaveholders, ruled by a Slave Power Conspiracy and the seedbed of mercenaries eager expand slavery into the American West and Latin America.

Aristocratic and chivalrous Southerners expected to be embraced by the aristocratic and chivalrous monarchs of Europe, who would despise the egalitarian North and who would submit to King Cotton. Southerners believed that the North did not have the capacity to accept the economic sacrafice of a war with the Kingdom of Cotton.

For the South, 'One Single Grand Victory' would be the story of the Southern War for Independence.

for the North, 'One Single Grand Victory' would be the story of the War of the Slaveholders Rebellion.

Looking back from the early 21st century upon the war and its interpretations, the Single Grand Victory notion worked its way into the Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War as well at the Centenial writings (and videos) of the 1960-2000 era.

Gettysburg is the turning point of the war.
Pickett's Charge was the turning point of the turning point.
Where did these ideas come from?

From Creasy's book written in 1851.

A Single Grand Victory: The First Campaign and the Battle of Manassas, Ethan S. Rafuse, Scholarly Resources, 2002.

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