Discussion Sustenance


Dec 3, 2013
Metairie, Louisiana
I just typed in a lot, went to post it and it all disappeared. Will try this again.

Hopefully, the following will give us something constructive to chew on as I work my way through this book. I'm learning some things that had never occurred to me nor had I ever come across them before in historical writings.

1) Official policy had little impact on restraining armies on either side in the struggle.

2) Both armies destroyed, misused, and wasted material resources.

3) Military needs triumphed over civilian society and the prevalent values of antebellum culture. Both armies made maximum use of what Yankee Private Edgar Ely called the "stuff" of war. Most of the warriors privileged their own needs (blue or gray) over everything else.

4) Very few career officers served in the Civil War and West Point graduates who did serve did not always abide by procedure. I was very surprised to learn that very few career officers didn't serve.

5) The Confederacy never created a Supreme Court and neither Lincoln nor Davis got closely involved in setting policy on civilians and their resources (I'm thinking bread riot in Richmond).

6) John Pope in 1862 and Francis Lieber in 1863 gave their pronouncements that were ALSO supposed to give protections to noncombatants and the material environment but they sure didn't work well in practice. As the author says, "policy made a thin path on the voracious needs of the two armies, which had their own momentum independent of military directives."

7) Historians have generally assumed that the Yankee army after a bumpy start figured out how to supply its men while the Confederate army didn't. The fact is, neither army functioned very efficiently.

8) Volunteer quartermasters and commissary officers underwent little to no instruction and some of them didn't even know what power lay or didn't lay in the hands of fellow officers such as provost marshalls.

This is very interesting AND very terrible all at the same time:

"What is more, neither army had reliable mechanisms to discipline soldiers who violated procedure. The courts-martial, which happened quickly with no set procedures, rarely convened to address mistreatment of civilians or their property. In the entire war, the Northern military commissions tried only 13 Union soldiers for crimes against civilians or their property; scholar Robert Alotta estimates that 10 federal soldiers, total, were executed for plunder, pillage, or theft of civilian property. The establishment of the US Judge Advocate General's Department in 1862, intended to bolster the court-martial system, had little influence on the men in the field. No records survive for rebel courts-martial or executions and the Confederacy never created a judge advocate office, but the historical evidence suggests that the outcome was much the same."

"The many soldiers in both armies who admitted violating regulations in their wartime or postwar writings correctly assumed that there would be no punishment."
If you read "General Butler in New Orleans" pg. 118, you find that a gang of Yankees, who used the ruse of searching a house for contraband, but stole a woman's jewelry, were caught, convicted and four of the gang were executed, the others were sent to do years of hard labor (with ball and chain) for the crime of pillaging. General Butler might have been a 'beast' and he did execute Mumford, but Mumford was the only civilian executed by Butler. He killed at least ten of his own men for 'pillaging' and would have done a lot more if he had been able to identify individuals carrying those unauthorized foraging expeditions. Butler considered pillaging a total breakdown of military discipline and it was usually punished by death or hard labor for years at one of the forts.

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!