The Contradictions of Shelby Foote

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Allie

Captain
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Dec 17, 2014
It seems R. E. Lee didn't think the confederates were fighting almost to the last man.

"Late in February General Lee declared that the despair of the North Carolinians was destroying his army. He wrote Governor Vance: 'Desertings are becoming very frequent and there is reason to believe that they are occasioned to a considerable extent by letters written to the soldiers by their friends at home.' The diaries and letters of the men in the line around Richmond show that Lee had reason to be concerned. 'Deserters increase ... we had three more last night' is the February 21 entry in the diary of Samuel Hoey Walkup of the Forty-eighth North Carolina regiment." [John G. Barrett, Sherman's March Through the Carolinas, p. 118]

Lee wasn't the only one.

"It was not those soldiers who looked to heaven for comfort but those who took off for home themselves that occasioned six North Carolina regimental commanders to write Senator William Alexander Graham of the Confederate Congress:

" 'Numerous desertions are now occurring among the troops from our state. ... We believe that the spirit of discontent among our soldiers owes its birth and growth to the influences of those of our citizens at home, who by evil councils and by fears have een made to despair of the success of our cause and are constantly, while the soldiers are home on furlough and through the mails, instilling into them opinions which too often culminate in desertion. We are led to this conclusion by intercepted letters, addressed to those who deserted.' " [Ibid.]

Seems there was a home front after all, and it seems they had quite an impact on soldier desertions.
If you pull a bunch of service records from soldiers of the same company, sometimes you can even see where and when morale problems occur. A whole bunch of soldiers slunk away in the vicinity of Abbeville, for example.

I'm not sure it's fair to discuss desertion in the Confederacy without considering how much easier it was to desert, however. I have some Dickerson cousins from Fulton who all deserted at the same time, two sons and a father. The thing is, they were in Fulton with the 7th TN Cav at the time. That's an extreme example, but it's obviously easier for most Confederates to get home than for most Union boys.
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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JPK, everyone else is thinking it- so me being the newbie and all I'll just say it- I am so sorry to have to tell you this but you're on the exact same hook as ole and diane. :smile:
Yes well kind but untrue- my stuff is merely the result of a great memory and a tendency to repeat ' Wut They Said ', honest. This Shelby Foote thread is awfully, awfully enlightening for instance- used to swallow him whole and undigested as well as Sears and a few others. Being here cures one in a big hurry, hanging on to fondly held beliefs AND any tendency one had for developing Big Pants.
 

Georgia Sixth

Sergeant Major
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Location
Texas
If you pull a bunch of service records from soldiers of the same company, sometimes you can even see where and when morale problems occur. A whole bunch of soldiers slunk away in the vicinity of Abbeville, for example.

I'm not sure it's fair to discuss desertion in the Confederacy without considering how much easier it was to desert, however. I have some Dickerson cousins from Fulton who all deserted at the same time, two sons and a father. The thing is, they were in Fulton with the 7th TN Cav at the time. That's an extreme example, but it's obviously easier for most Confederates to get home than for most Union boys.
Plus, oftentimes for the southern soldiers desertion was temporary, a sort of self-granted leave to go help with the crops or deal with a family crisis.
 
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Georgia Sixth

Sergeant Major
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It still shocks me to research my father's Yankee ancestors and find dozens of people, whole families of brothers of military age, who were not in the war. In the South if I see a man born between 1820 and 1847 I start looking for his service record, and almost always find one. In the Union, 1847 was too young... My Pennsylvania ancestor born 1847 stayed home. My Tennessee CSA cousin born 1847 died fighting.
Excellent observation as it beautifully pictures the difference between the war experiences of each side. And it explains also why in the South the war remained somehow as a looming part of the Present for generations, where as in the North it was definitely the Past. In the South, it was so much harder to forget.
 

Al Murray

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Location
West Virginia
we don't know what could have happened, we don't know the kinds of dominoes that could have occurred because of the smallest of actions, we don't know what kind of weird things could have come up. We can look at the odds and say that the South was unlikely to win but that the South never had a chance is kind of an absolute statement. Absolutes are tricky because we can look at history with our eyes sideways and a stack of books at our sides, and we all know what happened- but ultimately we have no clue about the possibilities.

Dang. Rereading that paragraph, does that make any sense?
Sure, it's possible that the martial artist would slip and hit his head on the coffee table, have a stroke and die, or simply decide that he wasn't willing to fight this idiot
There were way too many unknowns and unpredictable circumstances that would play out.
William Freehling has a talk on C-SPAN that fascinated me. He talks about what he calls the influence of "contingency" in history. He mentions several ACW examples, along the lines of the above thoughts. According to him the smallest thing happening or not happening at exactly the right time can change everything. If my father had not gone to a football game in the '40s he would not have met my mother. That would change nothing. But if by some tiny contingency (staying in one evening with a head cold, missing a train, etc) Hitler's parents had never met the entire world would be different. I agree with Allie and Hanna260. It is unlikely that the martial artist will fall and hit his head, but if he does, and the bully lives to father a child who grows up and invents some terrible weapon worse than the atom bomb, well, the dominoes can go a lot of ways.
 

Elennsar

Colonel
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Location
California
Within the realm of probability, as opposed to how theoretically even a one in a million event is not impossible, I think the Confederacy had a long shot chance.

But simply having material odds against it is not really a realistic look at the problem. The Dutch rebels had material odds against them, but there's a very good reason that didn't translate into Philip II suppressing their revolt. Long story short, that was a formidable task (in a way that was not the case for Union arms, due to railroads and differences in regards to fortifications vs. besiegers among other things) and only one of many things drawing on Spain's resources.

So whether contradictory or not, I think Foote is not quite correct on the North being able to bring out the other hand behind its back. Its not so much that it was fighting with all only half its might as that it could focus its might on the Confederacy in a way that Britain in the American Revolution or Spain in the Eighty Years War simply could not, for far reaching reasons that made the entire situation much less favorable.
 
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Al Murray

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No one is going to look at this, Cash. It reminds me of a movie from the 80's in which Legal Beagles subpoena a document and the opposition delivers a tractor/trailer full of documents for them to sort through. Cute, but I'll not play. Make your case succinctly and it will be considered.
Cash, how do you do that? I take Drew's point, and despite my willingness I couldn't look at all of it because I don't have enough time. But to come up with that many links in less than ten minutes? I'm not being snarky here. If someone asked me to produce evidence to demonstrate some statement I made I could do it but it would take time. It may be my poor computer skills, my general lack of ability, or distraction by 21st century matters that would delay me. But if there is a secret and you could let me in on it I'm all ears.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Right here.
Cash, how do you do that? I take Drew's point, and despite my willingness I couldn't look at all of it because I don't have enough time. But to come up with that many links in less than ten minutes? I'm not being snarky here. If someone asked me to produce evidence to demonstrate some statement I made I could do it but it would take time. It may be my poor computer skills, my general lack of ability, or distraction by 21st century matters that would delay me. But if there is a secret and you could let in on it I'm all ears.
The more you search for things, the better you get at it, but it takes a lot of plodding around. You also have to learn to recognize what's junk and what's not junk. It, unfortunately, is one of those learn by doing things.
 
Joined
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Location
Southwest Mississippi
Plus, oftentimes for the southern soldiers desertion was temporary, a sort of self-granted leave to go help with the crops or deal with a family crisis.
So true.
Especially when one was relatively close to home.

There was a fellow in my GG Grand Dad’s (State Regiment/militia “old man” unit) that did just that.

During the first Federal attempt on Vicksburg, the regiment was moved into a position supporting the CSA fortifications along the Yazoo River . . . north of the city.

They never saw action, but were there in the summer of 62' . . . if needed.

Sherman was defeated at Chickasaw Bluffs that December, so many of the guys thought the crisis was over & wondered why they were still camped out in the woods during January 1863.

Long story short - this 4o something old man took “French Leave” to return to his home over 100 miles away . . . as his young wife was about to give birth to their 2nd child.

He’s listed as AWOL on the records from January 1863 until March 1863 when he returned to camp.

It turns out, he went home until the baby was born, spent the nights with his wife but hid in a canebreak during the day to avoid the provost guard.

To pass time, he reportedly made a very handsome rocking chair while hiding out in the canebreak.
 
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R. Alex Raines

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Monte Vista, Colorado
That's why I often defend Joe Johnston - he knew he didn't have to win to win.
The problem with Joe Johnston was he always equated danger with certainty of success. If he was outnumbered and the position had flaws, he would fall back. It would certainly be an eloquent retreat, but it would be a retreat.
 

R. Alex Raines

First Sergeant
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Location
Monte Vista, Colorado
No one is going to look at this, Cash. It reminds me of a movie from the 80's in which Legal Beagles subpoena a document and the opposition delivers a tractor/trailer full of documents for them to sort through. Cute, but I'll not play. Make your case succinctly and it will be considered.
The problem is, Cash isn't playing hide the ball or anything similar. You asked for primary sources and they are all responsive. You can't ask for proof and then complain that there's too much proof. You can either demonstrate what's wrong with the proof, provide evidence of your own, or concede the point.
 

M.Warren

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 14, 2014
Location
Watauga Settlement
This has turned out to be an awesome thread. I'm not sure how I've missed it up to this point but I'm very happy that I stumbled across it when I did. There is a vast amount of knowledge here mixed with general, good common sense ,logical, polite discussion that keeps me rethinking my position constantly to make sure not to leave anything out. I'm actually less sure of my feelings on the subject after reading the thread twice than I was before I started it. Thanks R. Raines. If you hadn't posted here last night and I hadn't made my wise a## attorney comment I'd have probably missed out on this. I owe you one.
 
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chellers

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Cash, how do you do that? I take Drew's point, and despite my willingness I couldn't look at all of it because I don't have enough time. But to come up with that many links in less than ten minutes? I'm not being snarky here. If someone asked me to produce evidence to demonstrate some statement I made I could do it but it would take time. It may be my poor computer skills, my general lack of ability, or distraction by 21st century matters that would delay me. But if there is a secret and you could let me in on it I'm all ears.
Mr. Murray,

Sir, @cash maintains an active Civil War blog which can be lengthy, but he documents his posts to the nth degree. He likely has blogged about Shelby Foote and has these references quite at hand. Here is the link to his blog: https://studycivilwar.wordpress.com/. I guarantee you will learn something every time you read it.
 

rickvox79

First Sergeant
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Jan 27, 2011
Location
Pace, FL
The problem with Joe Johnston was he always equated danger with certainty of success. If he was outnumbered and the position had flaws, he would fall back. It would certainly be an eloquent retreat, but it would be a retreat.
The problem for Joe Johnston was he was almost always outnumbered which meant an awful lot of falling back and retreating. It seemed like he was averse to taking risks. Lee paid for some of the risks he took but at least he was willing to try. I know Joe had a lot of disadvantages compared to the opposing armies he went up against, but he definitely seemed like a "glass is half empty" type that was afraid to take chances.
 

wausaubob

Major
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Location
Denver, CO
The US was not fighting with one hand behind its back. It was fighting with one hand, growing the economy with the other and sending telegraph messages to the economy verbally.
At the agricultural fairs, both State and county, which, with some diminution in 1861, were held throughout the war, attended by the usual crowds, and meeting with the usual successes and failures, the exhibitions of the new machinery afforded the chief attraction, and aroused the greatest possible inter- est. Only one exhibit compared with them in popularity,- another comparatively new labor-saving device,-the sew- ing machine.1 p.272 https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1883656.pdf
The odd thing was that even while the war was going on, the Midwest, extending out to Nebraska, Colorado and other western mining towns, was growing rapidly.
Here is his footnote 1: 1 The State fairs, also, after 1861 were maintained as usual. 1 have in my possession a mass of material to show the continuation of the fairs, both county and State. The files of the Springfield Republican, New York Tribune, and Chicago Tribune are valuable on this subject as well as the agricultural papers. In almost every account of the exhibits, mention is made of the interest in the agricultural machinery and sewing machines. The agricultural press was flourishing in the middle and the end of the war. By the end of 1864 the American Agriculturist had a circulation of 100,000,-an increase of 100 per cent. over 1861. See the Ohio Farmer, January 30, 1864, for the general prosperity of farmers' papers.
So the Midwest could have fought the war on military terms, and then conceded an armistice and prepared for a new war of national unity, an American anschluss, at any time.
 
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wausaubob

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Part of what the author Foote mentioned was that at the Ivy League schools in NE, the students continued to hold crew races. Life went on largely on a normal basis.
 

wausaubob

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Denver, CO
In military terms, the full application of the US industrial power probably meant widespread distribution of repeating rifles. Much heavier cavalry raids, with light artillery. But it was in the naval combat and in combined arms, at Mobile and Fort Fisher, that the other hand was committed to fighting. When winning the election and then quickly ending the war were at issue, Farragut ran one operation with Granger supporting, and Porter ran another with General Terry who had been instructed to cooperate fully with Porter, in support.
 

wausaubob

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Part of what he was getting at was that population of the US grew between 1860 and 1870 by 8 million. But the Midwest and Great Plains grew at about 42%.
 
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Drew

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Oct 22, 2012
In military terms, the full application of the US industrial power probably meant widespread distribution of repeating rifles. Much heavier cavalry raids, with light artillery. But it was in the naval combat and in combined arms, at Mobile and Fort Fisher, that the other hand was committed to fighting. When winning the election and then quickly ending the war were at issue, Farragut ran one operation with Granger supporting, and Porter ran another with General Terry who had been instructed to cooperate fully with Porter, in support.
I'm not sure what you're talking about. This thread is about Shelby Foote and in any case, there was no, "widespread distribution of repeating rifles" in the Union Army.

David Dixon Porter was run out of Northwest Louisiana like a scalded dog in 1864. He'd have perished if not for Joseph Bailey's dam. So, what are you talking about?
 

wausaubob

Major
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Location
Denver, CO
Chicago grew from about 112,000 to about 290,000 in ten years. Which supports that hypothesis that either the 1860 census was a serious under count in the Midwest, of Commissioner Kennedy's chart about the rates of growth published in the preliminary report captured the true picture.
 
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