Thursday, December 29, 2011

A2C Oddbody, Clarence D.


"It comes in mighty handy down here, bub."

When is the last time someone called you bub?

The D is for dumbass.
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I once wrote an alternative screenplay for this, seeing as how it is in the public domain and all, but it had no takers, producers-wise. In my version, Uncle Billy is beaten up severely by a street gang on the way home from the bank and Mr. Potter is ratted out by his wheelchair pusher and spends his last years in prison for grand larceny. In an optional plot twist, he becomes a prison bitch to an Italian immigrant guard.

Clarence ends up with Mary in my version.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More on propaganda

Propaganda doesn't have to be as blatantly overt as a film by Josef Goebbels or Michael Moore.

The dictionary tells us that propaganda is information of a biased or one-sided nature, usually casting some subject in a negative light. It can be outright lies, or it can be lies by omission. But the thesaurus also lists "advertising" as a synonym.

Many advertisements flash by us each day, most having little effect on us. Here is one that flashed by me the other day, but I reached out and grabbed it, analyst that I am.


What is the purpose of the above ad? What is the bank trying to achieve? Is it propaganda? Do you think the bank is truly "committed" to our military and wants to give them a warm and personal banking experience? Do you think the fact that the family in the picture is black is coincidental? Does this ad persuade you that this big bank is really caring and gives individual attention to all their customers? Does it make you want to do business with them? Vomit at their insulting patronizing? What?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Long way home

Many years ago, the Australian government had a policy of trying to "assimilate" - some say it was really persecution of - the native population. Much like the U.S. did to their Native American population. It was common to take young aboriginal children from their households and put them in boarding schools many miles away and make them live under the white culture. They must speak English and not their native tongue in public, dress like white people, learn white religions. I saw a movie about this practice in Australia which took place (the movie) in the 1930s.

The practice of forced reeducation of culture stopped in the U.S. in the early 1960s, I think. I don't know when it stopped in Australia. Anyway, the movie I saw was about three (I think) little girls, sisters, who had been taken from their aboriginal home and family and placed in a "mission" boarding school 1500 miles across the continent. The movie is mainly about how the girls escaped and made their way back home. If I remember right, it took years to get home, across the 1500 miles. Maybe not years, but a long time.

They remembered the rabbit-proof fence that had run by their home. They found it near the mission where they were being kept and just followed the fence home. A touching story.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"How Jack the Weakling Slaughtered the Dance-Floor Hog"

From the back covers of comic books of yore.

"Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!"


Over the river and through the wood,
To Grandfather's house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

[Complete poem here. I worked hard on it.]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

On the great value of Twitter


(NEWSER) – A Texas teen tweeted 144 times in six hours about being molested by a family member and being forced into prostitution. Then 18-year-old Ashley Billasano killed herself—after announcing to some 500 Twitter followers she was going to do just that, reports theHouston Chronicle. No one sought help for her, reports Fox News Houston.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sharing the tick


If you learn what a thing consists of, what parts make it up, you will come to understand the more complex whole. If you can't explain something simply, you don't know it well enough; you haven't studied the parts closely enough. An investigator gathers and sorts parts until the big picture materializes. Some children like to take things apart. Why? To find out what makes the thing tick. Often they are not so keen on putting them back together. Why? Because they have already discovered what makes the thing tick and putting it back together is redundant; it doesn't further their inquiry.

To be helpful, though, the gathered and sorted parts must have conclusions drawn from them, and, to be worth anything, those conclusions must be shared with others, usually by publishing. Research shouldn't be simply about personal edification. What good is that to the world? Helpful research is done by people who not only discover what makes it tick, but who explain it and leave a record. If this note-taking and journal-keeping is done as you go, and restated and interpreted as you go, then there will not be a big book to write at the end; it is already complete. I think too many books go unpublished because writing them is redundant for the researcher who already knows the material. He is like the child who learns what makes a thing tick, but doesn't share that knowledge. Do it as you go. Write daily. Take notes as you take things apart, not down the road.

Some people go through life trying to find out what makes things tick.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thoughts are things


If there is a God (and there is), how it must laugh to watch mortals deep in heavy-duty thought debating its existence or it's form. I say "laugh" because any God that exists must surely have a sense of humor when it comes to humans.

Anselm: God exists because we can conceive of such a thing in our minds. The very conception of something means it exists. Thoughts are things. Just because you can't see something doesn't mean that thing doesn't exist.

Aquinas: So you really think you can conceive of God and what God is? Only God knows what the nature of God is. God exists, but not because you can conceive such an entity exists. Only God can think those thoughts with true knowledge of his nature. Your vague conceptions suck.

Descartes: I think, therefore I am. You don't have to know the nature of God. You only have to conceive that God is perfection, whatever his "nature" is. Give me a break. God exists because I can conceive of a perfect entity. Je pense donc je suis. Cogito ergo sum. Or did I say that already?

Relax Max: Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum. Contemplatum hurtus cabeza. I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am. Thinking makes my head hurt.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Single action

Single action refers to a firearm in which the trigger performs only a single action: to release the cocked hammer or striker. If it isn't cocked, nothing happens when the trigger is pulled. A single action revolver must be manually cocked between each firing.

In a double action revolver, the trigger performs both the act of cocking and of releasing the hammer or striker. This means that the piece will fire every time the trigger is pulled, although the trigger pull becomes longer.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Wrapping it up: A final Gettysburg overview


A summary and comments on the three-day Battle of Gettysburg.
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The Battle of Gettysburg was a famous battle of the American Civil war. It took place over July 1-3, 1863 at a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The American Civil War was fought between the northern "Union" states and the 11 secessionist southern states. The secession of those 11 states was not recognized by President Abraham Lincoln or the rest of the American government. The Confederate States of America was never recognized as an independent nation by any country.

Both sides had several armies. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought between the Army of the Potomac (north) and the Army of Northern Virginia.

Both armies were organized into several large groups called corps. In turn, corps were made up of divisions. Divisions were made up of brigades. Brigades consisted of regiments and regiments were made up of companies, the smallest unit of organization. Corps were usually simply assigned Roman numerals, and were also known by the name of their commander. Divisions and brigades were usually simply referred to (by Civil War historians) by the name of their commanding officer. Regiments were named after the states that raised them, preceded by a number; companies were almost always simply known by letters. Some had unofficial or official nicknames.

At Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia was commanded by Robert E. Lee. The Army of the Potomac was commanded by George G. Meade.

The invasion of the North by the Army of Northern Virginia began in early June, 1863, when that army crossed the Rapidan river and began their march north toward Pennsylvania. Coincidentally, the new state of West Virginia was admitted to the Union effective June 20 while the Confederates were marching north across part of it.

The Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock shortly thereafter and also began marching north, shadowing the Army of Northern Virginia, staying generally between Lee's army and Washington City. The armies continued north, paralleling each other. Lee's cavalry also proceeded northward, but (with Lee's permission) moved, on June 26, to the east of the Army of the Potomac, then resumed northward between the Union Army and Washington. Those three brigades of Lee's cavalry (Stuart) left the main army on June 26 and rejoined it on July 2.

The march northward took most of the month of June. There were some major encounters between the two armies as they proceeded northward.

With relation to the town of Gettysburg, Lee's army columns ended up marching to the west of the town, and the Union army to the east of the town. One corps of Lee's army was sent further north past Gettysburg. Lee's cavalry, still farther to the east, also proceeded farther north than Gettysburg. The original plan was for II Corps (Ewell) and Lee's Cavalry (Stuart) to link up and perhaps take Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania state capital, but both were recalled south to Gettysburg when it became obvious to Lee that a major battle would be fought at Gettysburg.

On the last day of June, elements of the two armies sighted each other when a forward unit of Lee's army, intending to enter the town of Gettysburg, encountered a group of Union recon cavalry. The Confederate party returned to their main body after this brief encounter.

The next morning, on July 1, a larger force of two confederate divisions (Heth, Pender) were sent into Gettysburg with the intent of driving out the Union cavalry. The Union cavalry resisted the Confederate advance into Gettysburg, and held the forward units of the Confederates long enough for the Union I Corps (Reynolds) to begin arriving from the south. Lee immediately ordered concentration of his entire army at Gettysburg. The morning battle at Gettysburg intensified as more and more units from both sides began to arrive and engage.

Meade did not receive word of the large engagement taking place at Gettysburg until later in the morning, at which time he, too, sent out orders to all his corps commanders to come to Gettysburg, and notified the War Department in Washington. He also dispatched General Hancock, the commander of the Union II Corps, ahead to organize and align the Union troops as they arrived at Gettysburg, until Mead himself could come up. The furthest distant, the Union VI Corps (Sedgewick) in Maryland, did not receive Meade's orders until near midnight, but the large 16,000-man corps was mobilized immediately and was force-marching to Gettysburg by 3 a.m.

After initial Union success in the morning of day one, more and more of the Confederate army began arriving and made fine progress before the bulk of the Union arrived on site and got in line. The Union I Corps (Reynolds/Doubleday) units were driven back and back until they were routed, pursued through the streets of Gettysburg, to Culp's hill, up Culp's hill and Cemetery Hill. Many Union prisoners were taken.

The above describes the state of the battlefield as of late afternoon on day one. There was plenty of light left, as it was July 1.

Confederate II Corps (Ewell) declined to pursue.

End of day one.

During the night, the Confederates could hear the sound of axes and picks and shovels as the Union troops labored through the night on fortifications, and, corps by corps, the rest of the Army of the Potomac, except the distant VI Corps, arrived on the field. General Meade arrived on the field at about 3 a.m., assumed personal command of the field (from Hancock), and set up headquarters. Come daylight of day two, it was a very different sight indeed which greeted Confederate eyes.

On the morning of day two, Lee ordered a simultaneous assault on both flanks of the Union line.

[Note: the Union right flank or northern end of the Union line, closest to the town of Gettysburg, would have been on a Confederate soldier's left. The Union left flank or south end of the Union line, would have been to a Confederate soldier's right.]

Lee's intent was (apparently) an enveloping action, but was not coordinated simultaneously. Because of this failure to attack both flanks simultaneously, Meade was able to use troops from the center of his line to reinforce first his left flank, then (to a lesser extent) his right simply by moving some troops back and forth. A coordinated attack by Ewell and Longstreet on both flanks at once (as Lee had apparently envisioned) would have (perhaps) denied Meade the ability to reinforce both of his flanks.

For his own reasons, Longstreet (Confederate I Corps) did not choose to begin his assault on the Union's left flank (south) until 4 p.m. or shortly thereafter (but, contrary to lore and even some history books, Lee had not ordered Longstreet to attack "at dawn" or at any other specific time; Longstreet was given the discretion to engage at will, when ready; and Ewell was to attack the other Union flank when Longstreet's artillery opened.) Nevertheless, the Federals used the extra time to continue digging in. Lee might have preferred earlier, but he was well aware of Longstreet's deliberateness. When Longstreet finally opened on the Union left flank, the attack was fierce, with some of the bloodiest fighting seen so far. American military lore is filled with odd names from that afternoon: Little Round Top. Devil's Den. The Wheatfield. The Peach Orchard. Longstreet saw some results and gained some ground, yet he was not successful in taking the high ground from the Federals, or in fully turning Mead's left flank.

Ewell did not attack exactly simultaneously (as previously pointed out) at the sound of Longstreet's guns, but did begin his own (poorly reconned) bombardment at about 5 p.m. - which the superior Union artillery answered, immediately and emphatically, pounding Ewell's guns until their position on bald and vulnerable Benner's Hill became untenable and the Confederate artillery commander requested permission to withdraw. Thus, at about 7 p.m., with only 4 guns remaining in support, Ewell attacked the Union right at Culp's Hill with Johnson and, later, near nightfall, Cemetery Hill with Early.

The Federals (though thinned by Meads taking much of his right to reinforce his south flank) held Culp's Hill, driving the Confederates back down the hill and into the trenches they themselves had recently occupied. As for Cemetery Hill, attacked even later, Early met with more success and made it to the top of the hill, where Howard's XI Corps panicky "Dutchmen" broke and ran again. However II Corps (Hancock) sent reinforcements and (along with the XI Corps "returnees") drove Early back down again and retained control of Cemetery Hill when the fighting ended at about 10:30 that night. The fighting was sure to resume at daybreak or before.

With the cessation of firing of both muskets and artillery, quiet descended over the field, the light of the full moon illuminating the corpses lying helter skelter on the hillsides and valley. Soon, the only sounds were the sobs and moaning of the wounded, begging for assistance and for water from their comrades, combined with the noises of the maimed and dying horses. Those still alive on both sides were becoming used to that sad sound, that continual wail. But attempts at aid would likely only lay them dead next to the already fallen.

At nightfall on day two, there weren't nearly as many participants of either side still standing, but the Union, thinner on the flanks, and reinforced as needed from the center, still held the high ground on the east.

And so ended day two at Gettysburg. Day two had been a blood bath, but nothing had been decided. Day three would be do or die for both sides. Day three would decide the Battle of Gettysburg, and, some say, it decided the future of the United States.

Day three saw the battle for Culp's Hill and the Federal right flank resume before daylight. General Lee had given Ewell instructions to resume the attack on the Union right in the morning. But while Ewell slept, the decision-making for the hour of resumption passed from Ewell to the Union Army. During the night, between the time of the cessation of fighting at 10:30 p.m. and the wee hours of the morning, while Ewell slept, Slocum (Union XII Corps) had been positioning big guns along Power's and McAlister's Hills, commanding the valley before Culp's Hill. Before Ewell stirred, at 3:45 a.m., with the Confederates still asleep in the trenches below, with the faintest hint of dawn in the sky, Union Brigadier General John W. Geary drew his service pistol and fired a single shot in the air. At the signal, the Federal guns began to belch fire and molten metal down on the Confederates still clinging to the hill and in the trenches.

Throughout the mind-numbing 7-hour battle for Culp's Hill, Ewell continued to order frontal assaults. The Union troops on the hill were veterans and poured down deadly concentrated musket shot into the attackers. Still they came. In the end, the Confederates would be calling it "Death Hill." It is hard to describe the terrible casualties inflicted on the Confederates during those unimaginable 7 hours. For example, the 3rd North Carolina started with 300 muskets and ended up with 77 men, or about a 75% loss. Finally, at about 11 a.m., both armies were utterly exhausted. The fighting died down, as if by mutual consent. What was left of the Confederates retired. The Union did not pursue. Both sides were in shock. In subsequent years of analysis, the battle of Culp's Hill would be acknowledged as the scene of some of the most determined fighting of the war.

As the Federals ventured out, Kane's brigade found 500 dead Confederates in its front. "Somewhere among them was a squat little man, Wesley Culp, a private in Company B, 2nd Virginia, of the Stonewall Brigade. He was twenty-four and because he was only five feet tall, Colonel Douglas had had a special gun made for him. Where he fell he could look at the house where he had been born. He had gone to Virginia to sell Gettysburg carriages and Southern eyes made him stay."

The carnage of day three wasn't over by far. Day three would also see a full frontal assault of the Union center by three divisions of the Confederate army. Across that open three-quarter mile area between Seminary Ridge and the long Union line, entrenched on the opposing heights, and fortified by scores, hundreds, of fire-breathing cannon, marched the men of Pickett, Pettigrew (replacing Heth) and Trimble (replacing Pender.) Truly it was the Valley of Death. The world now knows the result of that fateful charge, in which 12,500 Confederate soldiers were repulsed with over 50% casualties, but what must it have been like to be there, to feel and hear the booming and crashing and screaming, and breathe the acrid gunsmoke and be a part of that battle? I don't know. The following words come to mind:

"And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."

After the repulse, General Lee told Pickett to regroup his division.

"General, I have no division."

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Today:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

News Corp. will save our schools

Rupert Murdock shakes hands with former New York City schools chief (and now News Corp. Employee - by a remarkable coincidence) Joel Klein.

HALLELUJAH!

The future of education has arrived.

Rrrrrupert is Rrrrready. Ready to enter the U.S. education "market", that is. Americans can soon leave their damnable and degrading dismal dumbness behind if Rupert has his way. Virtual classrooms are the answer. No traditional classrooms, desks or chalkboards. Just computers. Computers running Rrrrrrupert's Rrrrremarkable Rrrrrevolutionary software, of course.

Rupert has been quietly developing virtual-learning and technology-driven products which are now apparently ready to unveil at a K-12 school near YOU!

Students rounded up into cubicle corrals like a Pakistani ShamWOW call-fulfillment center, staring intelligently at monitors and going at their own speed. It's learning in the fast lane, I tell ya, college by age 7 for some. Jebeezus but it is hard to sit still as I write this.

What do we want? "EDUCATION!"

When do we want it? "NOW!"

Who da man? "RRRRRRUPERT!"

Who gonna pay? "YOU ARE!"

Who gonna make money? (All together now) "RRRRRRRR---"

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Banned, burned, bad books

In 1931, China banned "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" because the story portrays animals and humans on the same level. It was believed that animals should not use human language.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error."

- On Liberty, John Stuart Mill

Recommended previously banned reading list from Relax Max to you:

The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn Mark Twain
Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
The Color Purple Alice Walker
A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L'Engle
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
Beloved: A Novel Toni Morrison
Slaughterhouse - five, or, The Children's Crusade Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies William Golding
Native Son Richard Wright
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain
Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
The Call of the Wild Jack London
Frankenstein Mary Shelley
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Ok, so you say you are open-minded and don't believe in banning and/or burning books. How about the following? It is the American Library Association Council's "Library Bill of Rights." Do you agree with it? All of it? For all books? Even the age part?

Library Bill of Rights

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.
Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

A person's right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

Adopted June 18, 1948, by the ALA Council; amended February 2, 1961; January 23, 1980; inclusion of "age" reaffirmed January 23, 1996.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Models of clarity

Favorite book title I've run across today:

The War on Terror Narrative: Discourse and Intertextuality in the Construction and Contestation of Sociopolitical Reality (Oxford Studies in Sociolinguistics) (Paperback)

Does that title not want to make you run out and buy this book?

Fellow writers take hope: Publishers don't have a clue as to how to present and sell books. At least this one doesn't. Of course, if you have a captive audience of enslaved readers, then I guess it doesn't matter.

I don't care if it IS companion reading to a university course. Think of a better title. Shall I write to this university press? Do you think they would understand my simple one-syllable words? Often of only 4 letters? What if I write in the voice of Donald Duck? Wak! Wak!

Would you like me to tell you the titles of some of the companion books that Tower Books suggests you should buy, if you like this one? Hmmmmm?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gettysburg personalities: Richard Ewell

After the death of Lt. General Stonewall Jackson at Chancellorsville in May of 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia was reorganized into three corps. Prior to Jackson's death, Lee's army had consisted of two large corps, commanded by Jackson (II Corps) and Lt. General James Longstreet (I Corps.)

After the reorganization, Longstreet retained command of the changed I Corps, and two of Jackson's division commanders were promoted from Major General to Lt. General and were given command of the other two corps. II Corps' new commander was Richard S. Ewell and A.P. Hill became the commander of the newly formed III Corps. Ewell was promoted Lt. General with a date of rank one day earlier than Hill, thus becoming the third-highest ranking officer in the Army of Northern Virginia, behind only Longstreet and Lee.

There were several differences between Stonewall Jackson and Richard Ewell. For one thing, Jackson was pious, took his religion seriously, started each battle by raising his left arm heavenward, as if blessing the battlefield or perhaps beseeching the Almighty for victory. He never explained, that I could find, and I suppose none had the courage to ask. He continued this odd practice until a Yankee bullet or piece of shrapnel violated his middle finger in mid-blessing one day. Jackson refused to have the finger amputated.

Ewell, on the other hand, was unabashedly profane; one can easily visualize clouds of blue smoke emanating from his mouth as he cursed that proverbial blue streak. Of course, even so, he couldn't hold a candle to his fellow division commander, Major General Jubal Early, who worked in profanity the way Michelangelo had worked in marble. Jube was the acknowledged master in that area. Early and Ewell had been division commanders under Jackson, and it might be possible (I only offer this as conjecture from my reading) that Ewell was a bit under the influence of the brash Early, even after he became Early's commanding officer. I ask you to keep this thought in mind as we later speak of the end of day one at Gettysburg.

Perhaps the most important difference, in my mind at least, between Ewell and Stonewall Jackson was this: Jackson was an intuitive commander of large numbers of men on the battlefield, used to making independent decisions and able to adapt to rapidly changing conditions with the ebb and flow of battle. Jackson was as close to Robert E. Lee as perhaps any other general when it came to being able to see the big picture and being able to form reactive strategies. Lee was a person who gave open-ended orders to his corps commanders, and gave them leeway to do what they did best. Lee did not micromanage his commanders. This worked well with Jackson and Longstreet (also a legendary self-starter.)

Ewell, in contrast, wouldn't do anything major without specific orders. Ewell was a fine soldier and tenacious in battle when given a task to accomplish on the battlefield. That shouldn't be doubted. But he was also a "consensus man" who sought advice from his division commanders, especially Jubal Early.

A third difference between Jackson and Ewell is probably not relevant to Gettysburg, but bears mentioning. Ewell, though profane, was compassionate with his soldiers, took care of them whenever he could. Jackson drove his men to the point of exhaustion, sometimes marching them barefoot in the snow and reprimanding brigade commanders for resting them. Jackson was much more like Grant was on the Northern side, I think, with regard to being willing to take casualties. Gettysburg, however, was not a place for compassion or for avoiding casualties.

But it was Jackson, on his deathbed, who recommended Ewell to General Lee, and it is probably unlikely that Ewell would have been given command of II Corps and promoted to Lt. General, had it not been for this recommendation; Lee hadn't known much about, or at least not thought about Ewell that much before Jackson's recommendation. Jackson's recommendation was, however, gold to Robert E. Lee, and so it came to pass.

Richard Stoddert Ewell was - bar none - the most bizarre senior officer in the Confederate Army; the word "eccentric" simply doesn't do him justice. Wounded countless times, given to chronic illness - both real and in his mind - profane almost beyond belief, a man who had convinced himself he was being eaten up inside by something and would eat little else but a gruel of grain and milk; a man so nervous and high strung that he couldn't bear sleeping in a bed lying flat and spent nights curled around a camp stool; a man with an annoying quavering shrill voice and pronounced lisp which grew greater the more excited he got, which was frequently; who was given to carrying on conversations with himself, often stopping in mid-sentence when speaking to others to observe such things as - "I wonder why Davis made me a general?" - before continuing as if nothing were unusual in talking like that; a man who walked with a wooden leg, having lost his leg to amputation after being severely wounded at Second Bull Run (Second Manassas); a former expert horseman and dashing calvary commander who now went to battle in a buggy.

After his amputation, Ewell had been nursed back to health for several months by his first cousin, a well-to-do widow from Tennessee by the name of Lizinka Brown. Ewell and Lizinka had flirted as teenagers but she had married Mr. Brown and nothing came of the flirtation. Circumstances were different now, however, and, during Ewell's months-long convalescence, love was rekindled in the crusty heart of the lifelong bachelor. Near-death, which often brings solemn (if sometimes short-lived) promises to God, coupled with new-found love and marriage, tempered General Ewell. At least it cleaned up his mouth and calmed him down to where he was only greatly abnormal. Even so, he would often still introduce his new wife, absentmindedly, as "Mrs. Brown," and still held forth with his internal conversations. But he was quieted, and "...no longer came crashing from the trees on horseback or jumping his horse into rivers without first seeing how deep the water was."

Thus, newly married and fitted with a wooden leg, just days after the death of the great Stonewall Jackson, did the new commander of II Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, the new Lt. General Richard Ewell, report back for duty to General Lee. A month or so later he would be in Gettysburg.
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The above is my summary of Ewell, gleaned from reading several books, some written by his contemporaries. Below are a few descriptive excerpts from some far greater writers (actual historians!) than the equally quirky Relax Max.
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Larry Tagg:

Rather short at 5 feet 8 inches, he had just a fringe of brown hair on an otherwise bald, bomb-shaped head. Bright, bulging eyes protruded above a prominent nose, creating an effect which many likened to a bird—an eagle, some said, or a woodcock—especially when he let his head droop toward one shoulder, as he often did, and uttered strange speeches in his shrill, twittering lisp. He had a habit of muttering odd remarks in the middle of normal conversation, such as "Now why do you suppose President Davis made me a major general anyway?" He could be spectacularly, blisteringly profane. He was so nervous and fidgety he could not sleep in a normal position, and spent nights curled around a camp stool. He had convinced himself that he had some mysterious internal "disease," and so subsisted almost entirely on frumenty, a dish of hulled wheat boiled in milk and sweetened with sugar. A "compound of anomalies" was how one friend summed him up. He was the reigning eccentric of the Army of Northern Virginia, and his men, who knew at first hand his bravery and generosity of spirit, loved him all the more for it.

Larry Tagg, The Generals of Gettysburg

Misc:
During the winter of 1861 - 1862, Lizinka Campbell Brown, one of the richest women in America, went to visit her son in the Confederate army in northern Virginia. He was the chief aide to Gen. Richard S. Ewell, a lisping, pop-eyed, beaked-nosed, baldheaded man who also happened to be Lizinka's cousin and love interest. Ewell courted and proposed to Lizinka during her stay, but she coyly refused to commit herself.

Misc:
Ewell was known for his odd sense of humor. He was worried that he might be killed in Pennsylvania, specifically at Cashtown, where he thought the great battle would be fought. "It isn't that I mind getting killed," he said. "It's the idea that my name will go down in history as being killed at a place called Cashtown."

Misc:
On June 6, 1862, after a violent skirmish with Union cavalry, Ewell revealed a previously unseen, tender side to his surly character - he personally loaded each of his wounded into ambulances. When he finished, he dug into his meager purse and gave most of his money to a local farmer, who had volunteered to house the injured. The funds were to be used for whatever his men might need.

Misc:
Had two horses shot out from under him in battle at Mexico City. Was wounded fighting Apaches under Cochise. When not fighting Indians, Ewell worked a small silver mine he had come into possession of, to no avail. Had nearly-spent bullets bounce off his chest two times during the Civil War.

Misc:
While riding down from Seminary Ridge in late afternoon of Gettysburg day one, with some of his officers, was shot in the leg by a Union sharpshooter. They were shocked. He laughed. It was in his wooden leg.

Misc:
Seriously considered that Stonewall Jackson was insane and never backed off that belief. "He (Jackson) is as crazy as a March Hare. But he has method in his madness." [ The reason Ewell pronounced Jackson insane was because Jackson refused to season his food with black pepper because he claimed it weakened his left leg. Ewell thought that was enough evidence that Jackson wasn't all there. Oddly, Ewell thought his own quirks were quite normal.]

Misc:
Born in Washington D.C. Graduated 13th in his class at West Point. Nicknamed "Baldy."
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Glenn Tucker (paraphrased and abridged by RM for this blog post):
By the morning of June 24th, the good citizens of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania had become somewhat used to the Confederate soldiers marching through their town. So far, some 10,300 soldiers had been counted, presumably for the purpose of reporting it to some Federal official, should any appear and ask the number. Soon, they lost count. To the tune of "The Bonnie Blue Flag," Rodes' entire division appeared, marching past the town square. Then, about a half hour later, the curious citizens watched as a carriage pulled by two horses pulled up in front of the Franklin Hotel, followed by a group of horsemen. A thin, sallow-faced man emerged slowly, assisted by some of his escort. The gathered crowd saw that he had a wooden leg and walked with a crutch. He entered the hotel, aided by the other officers, took over the large front parlor, ran up the Confederate flag, and established the headquarters of the Second Corps of Lee's army. General Richard S. Ewell's first order prohibited the sale of intoxicants in the town, and a guard was placed on all stores of liquor. One of the Confederate officers engaged in procuring supplies was one Major Todd, brother of the wife of President Lincoln.
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I'm going to leave out the anecdote of Ewell running off a group of Union cavalry in the middle of the night, cursing them insanely as he chased them down the street wearing only his underwear. Or perhaps I didn't leave it out after all.

Ewell lived on his wife's Tennessee estate after being released from prison after the war, and lasted to age 54, not that bad for all he went through. He is buried in Nashville.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Culling the vast wasteland, part 7

Relax Max surfs the web. Max tries not to stop and read questions and answers on the web. Sometimes his attention is sucked in before he can move on. Oddly pathetic and compelling at times however Max senses he is becoming dumber by the hour. Please send suggestions for help. god bless and thx u.

Entered Max's brain today at 1:12 am:

Question:

rugged686: What exactly does annotation mean im stuck on us history please help writing a report not sure what annotation means

vicegrip88: I dont know what annotation mean

Best Answers:

trove882: Do you know what a dictionary is?

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Question:

cabs32: PLEASE HELP. My daughter was stuck by a used needle! reply prompt please (March, 2007)

Best Answers:
(2009) mma_mom: Maybe she should see a doctor.

mr_no: A little bit more information is needed. Did patient jump?

funny_444: which you the best of luck. God bless u

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Question:

lentil267: Transmission Indicator Stuck. The orange indicator light on my 2007 Ford Focus is stuck in drive. It still goes into the gears properly.But just the little indicator on the floor doesn't move.So I have to count the gears.

Best Answers:

mactiti: The indicator is broke off. It must be taken apart and replaced.

lentil267: That's exactly what the man at the shop said. But $500.

mactiti: wow thats alot. i would just keep counting

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Fade to black...




Friday, September 30, 2011

Gettysburg: What if?

When students of the Civil War get together, the issue always arises as to when the South lost the war and whether the South could have won the war. Some say yes, and many of those who do say Gettysburg was when it was lost for good. Most say Gettysburg was the "High Tide" of the Confederacy, and that "Pickett's Charge" on the afternoon of the third day, when Armistead reached the Union cannon, was the precise apex. It was all downhill from there, these experts say.

As usual, I read and read and analyze and analyze, and, also as usual, I don't always come to the same conclusions as everyone else. What can I say - that's just who I am. An INTP is never impressed by "experts."

At Gettysburg, there were so many things coming together, then drifting away - so many opportunities taken or lost - that it is really hard to prove one's case, even with 20-20 hindsight.

1. Maybe Lee should have refused to engage at Gettysburg at all; should have just continued with his invasion plan - Ewell was already making for Harrisburg when Lee called him back.

2. Maybe Lee should have been more precise and forceful with Ewell in the late afternoon of day one at Gettysburg and given him a more direct and unambiguous order to take Culp's and Cemetery Hills while the Federals were in retreat.

Maybe.

3. Maybe Lee should have kept his cavalry right there with his army all along.

4. Maybe Lee shouldn't have ordered the suicidal frontal attack on the Union center on the afternoon of day three.

5. Maybe Lee should have listened to Longstreet and disengaged on the afternoon of day three; passed Meade's left flank to the south (he had his cavalry by then to screen him) and bolted for Washington.

6. Maybe Lee should have fought on the fourth day instead of returning to Virginia.

Maybe. So many chances. So easy to see them from the distance and clarity of time when we are sitting in our armchairs rather than standing in the Pennsylvania rain, dazed by artillery shells exploding around us, cowed by the screams of a thousand dying men. Maybe. So easy for us to be Lee today and make the right precise "better" choices.

As General Lee himself said so simply (though not truthfully) after the Battle of Gettysburg: "It is all my fault."

Despite the futility of second-guessing, I personally find it interesting to discuss and debate the above issues and more. I will do so in subsequent posts.
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Years after the war, when General Lee was President of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) he was having his "mistakes" at Gettysburg explained to him by a student. Lee listened politely, then replied, "Young man, why did you not tell me that before the battle? Even as stupid a man as I am can see it all now."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Live within your means. Pay yourself first.

I remember once when I was considerably younger that I got myself and my young family really deeply in debt. I just didn't make enough money to pay the bills and still go out on the town and have a LITTLE taste of the good life. It only got worse and creditors were calling me and then the phone got disconnected, but they just knocked on the little apartment door at night and kept bugging us to pay them.

I want to tell you that today, and for a very long time now, that is no longer the case. It is a pretty radical idea, but I want to share with you what I did in order to get out of debt, stop paying interest to everyone and his dog, and actually have enough left to save up for a down payment on a house and a car that would start in the morning. Here goes.

What I did was, I stopped borrowing money and we tightened our belts. I contacted all my creditors and told them how much I made and how much I could truthfully pay them each month (some made me pay every week) and I kept my word. A lot of hamburger and beans and macaroni were consumed during that bad time in my life, but my little family stuck with me. Somehow I managed to keep the car running to drive to work.

But you know what? After what seemed to be a lifetime of doing without and not being able to get extra things for the kids (and that killed me, because I used to put stuff for them on the credit cards) the bills started to get paid off, one by one by one. There were a lot, too. Once the creditors were paid off, we continued to live on a percentage budget, and part of that budget was savings and a little each month for investment. Not much. One day, a few years later, actually, after rebuilding our credit and saving a little out of each paycheck, we found outselves with a new car and then a small two-bedroom house that we actually could say that we owned, along with the mortgage company.

Now, I am not trying to be smart, or trying to insult anyone. Honestly, I am not. But I am here to tell you, as living proof, that the way out of crushing debt and the way to take care of your family, and perhaps your whole country, is NOT to borrow more and more money.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Think Tank


My research tells me a "Think Tank" is a group of people who are dedicated to researching a particular subject, and advocating for that subject.

Think Tanks are formal organizations, even non-profit, funded by various advocacy groups or even the government. (At least I think that is what I gleaned from my reading on the subject.)

I think I just found another area in which to cut the budget and tax the rich at the same time. Unfortunately it seems (from what I can see) that most of these so-called Think Tanks are self-described "Progressive" -cause advocates, so that isn't about to happen. The progressive thinkers won't even admit they are rich and that their causes and expensive soap boxes (and the advertising thereof) shouldn't be tax-exempt. There are a lot of bug-eyed far right tankers out there too, though.

On the other hand, I may have just stumbled across a second income on the side for us, should we decide to form an official one, pontificate, publish our pontifications, and pay ourselves a salary from our admirers' donations. Don't think I'm kidding. I never kid when it comes to money. :)

But I digress into a progressive-bashing rant. I'm truly sorry for that. What I really want is to explore Think Tanks here. Or do we already have one in operation here and I just don't realize it?

Let's talk about some. One. Does anyone know what The Fabian Society is? Supposedly started in the UK in 1884. Are they still going? What do they research and advocate? It's ok to Google if you want to, since I don't know the answer myself and it is not a trick question.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gettysburg Overview

Day One

Contact made on McPherson's Ridge early in the day. Union forces hold and even push the Confederates back early on, mostly due to Reynold's artillery placement. Ewell and Hill arrive from the north and the west, driving the Federals from McPherson's Ridge and back through the streets of Gettysburg in a rout. Many Union prisoners taken. U.S. Army driven out of the town and up Culp's Hill. Ewell does not pursue his advantage and finish the Federals off. Instead, the Federals spend the night fortifying the heights. Reinforcements for both sides continue to arrive through the evening and night.

Day Two

Lee mounts a major attack on the Union left flank at the Peach Orchard, Wheatfield, Roundtops and Devils Den with Longstreet's I Corp. After a very bloody battle, the Union still holds the high ground on their left. Lee then attacks Meade's right flank hard at Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill with Ewell. More desparate fighting. Union repulses and still holds defensive high ground at end of day two.

Day Three

Morning, Federals drive off remainder of Ewells forces at base of Culp's Hill. In early afternoon, Sedgewick's "Big Six" VI Corps arrives from Maryland after marching all night and day. Meade holds the corps in reserve. Later in the Afternoon, Lee orders a monumental frontal attack on the Union Center with artillery and three divisions of infantry. Suicide divisions are Trimble, Pettigrew, and Pickett. Union levels artillery and cuts the Confederate chargers with grape and case shot. Huge loss of life on both sides. Not enough Confederates survive to prevail, but the Union Line is pierced briefly. Stuart tries to get behind the Union center and attack from the rear, but is defeated by Union cavalry.

Day Four

Lee retires.

Friday, September 23, 2011

No Justice?


Georgia FINALLY executed cop-killer Troy Davis late Wednesday night. It only took them 22 years. Davis' supporters protested outside the prison and in Washington and in Paris France and god knows where else for the poor misunderstood killer. Hollywood movie stars, "music" rappers, and your regular Al Sharpton black "leadership" showed up to protest and call people who disagreed with them nasty names, in another example of fair and balanced pure reason that is the hallmark of the compassionate far left.

Whenever the death penalty is carried out it always makes me ashamed. Ashamed that it happens so infrequently and takes so long to get justice done for the victims.

"Justice Matters" said some of the placards of the protestors. Well, justice matters for the family of the cop he killed, too. Thank you, Georgia. Thank you Supreme Court.

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In a rather bizarre coincidence, Georgia wasn't the only state who executed a barbaric loser Wednesday. In Texas, the wannabe white supremist creep Lawrence Russell Brewer finally bought the farm for dragging a black man to death behind his pickup truck. That one happened back in 1998, so Texas is getting more efficient than Georgia, at least. More practice, I suppose.

Neither Al Shrpton, the movie stars, nor the rappers turned up to protest Brewer's execution. The victim's family showed up to say they were glad it finally happened, but too late for their mother to see, since she passed away while the killer was still enjoying three squares a day and a free lawyer.

I suppose I should show pictures of the stars of the two executions, but the pictures below are of the innocent victims.


Officer Mark MacPhail was shot and killed while working an off duty security job at a bus station. He was shot when he responded to the cries of a homeless man who was being robbed and pistol-whipped.

The robber shot Officer MacPhail underneath his vest and then again in the head as he fell.

The subject was sentenced to death and executed on September 21, 2011, twenty-two years after his conviction.

Officer MacPhail was a U.S. Army veteran and had served with the Savannah Police Department for three years. He was survived by his wife, 1-year-old daughter, infant son, mother, and siblings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Current crop of starry-eyed GOP hopefuls: My early picks for 2012

Here are the current batch of Republican contenders for President Obama's job. Obama seems to be self-destructing as this is being written but I personally think he still has enough juice with the entitlement crowd/Republican haters to win a second term (my prediction. Write it down.) I will vote for him if he does two things (stop spending so much and bring all the troops home.) His competition is shown below in order of my estimation of their chance to get the Republican nomination. Says I.

Below is Texas governor Rick Perry, numbah one contendah. Teaparty likes him. Christians like him. Has no problem sleeping at night after executions, he says. Independents iffy, though, and they will decide this election.

Below is ex-governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney. Can win if Independents stay on his bandwagon and he stays uncontroversial. He's a Mormon though, and that matters to some. He's the other man who could definitely be the next U.S. President if Obama stumbles for some reason.
Below is Michele Bachmann, a U.S. Congresswoman from Minnesota. Mother of 5 and foster mother of 23. Dyed in the wool Teaparty Republican. Chronic migraine sufferer who gets medically out of commission for days at a time, say her detractors. Probably is more conservative than even Gov. Perry. Probably more conservative than Calvin Coolidge, come to think of it. Will fade fast though, as the election gets nearer. Says I. If she somehow DOES get the GOP nomination, Obama with crack her open like a nut; I don't think Michele can take the heat of a head on American Presidential campaign, especially the way Obama and company will play. She would need a LOT of aspirin to withstand an Obama team onslaught. But maybe she has a quiet inner toughness that I just don't know about. I don't underestimate women anymore.
The above 3 are contenders. The 4 below are long-shots. Loooooooooooong shots.

Below is pictured Newt Gingrich, historian, teacher, and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Is knowledgeable and experienced and could do the job, but has an unfortunate history of deserting a wife on her cancer deathbed for mistress, now current wife. Some people don't like that in a President, although Clinton never gave a second thought to marital fidelity, so there's that precedent. My hunch is that Americans have probably had about enough of Newt, though.
Below is pictured Herman Cain, whom I would vote for but won't get the chance. He is a businessman and has never been a politician at any level. Worked for Pillsbury and was CEO of Godfather's Pizza, national chain. A history of reviving dead corporations. His ideas (such as doing away with the IRS and creating a simple flat tax) are too smart and workable for people to vote for him, though. That's just not the American way. Not afraid to attack Obama's policies, and does. Too bad, Mr. Cain. Teaparty seems to like him, though, and has lifted him to surprising contention from out of nowhere.
Below is pictured Rick Santorum. Conservative Teaparty kind of guy. A former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania. "In your face" lawyer politician. Too many political liabilites (pro-Iraq war, homophobe) and spouts off with opinions too much to ever be President. Some think differently than I, but not enough to get the job done for him, I say.
Below is former Utah governor and Reagan clone Ron Huntsman. That pretty much sums it up.
And then you have the perennial looney tunes guy, below, who is a bit too naive to get more than 3 votes. That's sort of too bad, from an idealistic standpoint. I think I'll stick with real- world thinking though. My pick? Herman Cain. Wouldn't vote for any of the others. Will vote for Obama if he brings the troops home and stops borrowing money. I guess that means I will not be voting for either a Democrat or a Republican again this time.

14 months to go and still to get in is Sarah Palin, and her ego will make her get in. I will put her chances below Michele Bachmann but above Newt Gingrich. Possibly NJ governor Chris Christie will still get in. If so, he goes to the top of the list and I vote for him (unless Obama... well, you know.) Christie is too smart to get in until 2016, though.

Speaking of egos, there's still Donald Trump in the wings, threatening to run as a candidate for a party other than the Republicans or Democrats. Libertarian? Naw. Greens? Get real. Certainly not the Socialist Workers or Communist ticket. If he does go third-party, then Obama's a shoo-in because Trump would only take far-right Republican voters away from Republicans. My opinion.

Below is Republican Member of Congress Ron Paul, Medical Doctor and dreamer of dreams.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gettysburg: Prelude

The Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia had fought several battles against one another before Gettysburg. This post is to clarify the logistics of how the two armies met again, this time in Pennsylvania, and the locations of the various organizations of the two armies when the battle of Gettysburg began.
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1. At the time of Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General Robert E. Lee consisted of three corps and one cavalry division. Confederate corps were larger than Union corps.

I Corps - Lt. General James Longstreet
II Corps - Lt. General Richard Ewell
III Corps - Lt. General A.P. Hill
Cavalry Division - Major General James Ewell Brown (Jeb) Stuart
Lee traveled and camped with Longstreet mostly.

2. At the time of Gettysburg, the Army of the Potomac, under the command of Major General George G. Meade consisted of 8 corps (7 infantry corps and 1 cavalry corps.)

I Corps - Major General John Reynolds
II Corps - Major General Winfield Scott Hancock
III Corps - Major General Daniel Sickles
V Corps - Major General George Sykes
VI Corps - Major General John Sedgewick
XI Corps - Major General Oliver Howard
XII Corps - Major General Henry Slocum
Cavalry Corps - Major General Alfred Pleasanton [the cavalry corps was a "combined force" of approx. 8,000 horse and 3,000 infantry.]

Links go to photographs of the generals. All pictures public domain. Thank you Wikipedia.

Confederate Corps were larger than Union Corps. At Gettysburg, the total confederate forces numbered about 75,000 and Union around 97,000; about 172,000 men engaged in the battle of Gettysburg. They were all there by day 2.
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The journey of the Armies: Fredericksburg to Gettysburg.

After the battle of Chancellorsville, the armies engaged again at Fredericksburg. Lee left cavalry at Fredericksburg, but slipped out with his three corps and went west from Fredericksburg, then crossed the Rappahannock and headed north. Stuart's Cavalry followed Lee. As Lee's three infantry corps continued north, there was a major cavalry engagement between Pleasanton (Union) and Stuart (Confederate) at a place called Brandy Station. Stuart then followed Lee north for a while, then (at Lee's orders) cut back south and east and around the (by then following) Union Army. The Union Army shadowed Lee as Lee continued north, staying between Lee and Washington/Baltimore. Stuart got around the Union army and headed north, but farther east than he had expected to be (because the Union army was spread further east than expected), Stuart coming only a few miles outside Washington, then continuing north through Maryland and eventually up to York and over to Carlisle in Pennsylvania. Always, the Union army was between Stuart and Lee.

Lee had crossed the Rappahannock with his main army on June 6, and on June 30, the day before the battle of Gettysburg began, Stuart was between York and Carlisle, to the north of Lee. After the first day's battle at Gettysburg, two men from Stuart's cavalry appeared at Gettysburg in the late evening and met with General Lee. They had been sent down from Carlisle by Stuart to find out what was happening, since he had word of fighting in Gettysburg. Lee sent them back to tell Stuart to come down to Gettysburg from Carlisle at once. That was the first Lee really knew that Stuart was even still alive. Stuart arrived in the afternoon of the second day's battle of Gettysburg with Lee's cavalry. [Other accounts say that it was Lee who sent out 10 couriers to spread out and find Stuart, in the evening following day one, each with sealed orders for Stuart to come to Gettysburg, and that it was one of these couriers who found Stuart. One way or the other, Stuart's cavalry arrived at Gettysburg from Carlisle on the afternoon of the second day.] Stuart had hoped to meet up with Ewell's Corps at Carlisle, but missed them as Ewell had already departed south to Gettysburg. Stuart bombarded the Carlisle barracks then headed south as well.

It is about 30 miles from Carlisle to Gettysburg. From Fredericksburg in Virginia to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (today on the highway) is 110 miles.
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Here is where the combatants were on June 30, the day before the battle of Gettysburg began:

1. Confederates:

Stuart and the confederate cavalry were between York and Carlisle in Pennsylvania.

Lee had continued to concentrate his forces, and the concentration was in full progress on June 30, Lee moving with Longstreet's I Corps from Chambersburg to Cashtown. Lee and Longstreet would have been at Cashtown (just west of Gettysburg) on June 30. A.P. Hill's III Corps would have also converged near Cashtown and would be moving parallel with Longstreet eastward to Gettysburg. Ewell would have been moving down from Carlisle to the north, and would be closing in on Gettysburg from that direction on June 30. (It would be one of Hill's advance divisions, General Heth, who would make first contact with the union cavalry in the early morning of July 1.)

Longstreet (and Lee) were by now at Cashtown, the corps still coming up. (It took a long time to march that many men over those roads, even at eight abreast, or so, it made for a column miles and miles long.) As the battle developed, more and more units began arriving.

Ewell was just north of Gettysburg. It would be the influx of the forward units of Ewell's II Corps from the northwest which would help further change the balance of power and push the Union forces back off McPherson's Ridge, past the town, and up Culp's Hill and Cemetery Ridge at the end of day one.

2. Union Forces:

The Army of the Potomac was scattered and individual corps commanders did not receive Meade's orders to concentrate on Gettysburg until late on day one or, in some cases, well after the first day's battle was over. Sedgewick's VI Corps, for example, had to force march - 16,000 men and supply trains - all night and most of day 2 from 30-some miles down in Maryland. The Army of the Potomac, however, got up more and more and was completely in place by late in the day of day 2. General Lee did not resume the battle until about 4 pm on day two, so that delay worked in favor of the Union army's hurried concentration.

General Meade had received word of a battle going on at Gettysburg from General Reynolds' courier. He sent the trusted and competent General Winfield Scott Hancock immediately to Gettysburg to decide where to deploy the Union Army, staying behind to prepare orders and send out couriers to the commanders of each Corps to come at once to Gettysburg. After sending orders to his commanders to concentrate the Army of the Potomac, General Mead and his staff finally left for Gettysburg. Meade arrived on the field much after day one's battle had concluded, at about 3 a.m. on day two, and set up his command headquarters. Lee had his headquarters across the field, on the backside of Seminary Ridge, near the Cashtown road.
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My next Gettysburg post will be a timeline or summary of the entire 3-days of Gettysburg. Then we can speak of individual events in the battle in subsequent separate posts. I do want to post on other topics in between these, though, to perhaps keep the attention of followers of this blog who are not as interested in Gettysburg as I am.

I encourage you to comment on things you believe are incorrect in my posts, and give any additional facts you want to give.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Opinions: Reasons for the Civil War

Ask practically anyone at all - even people who don't live in the U.S. - what the American Civil War was fought over, and you will get a quick and simple answer: slavery.

Was it?

Certainly the issue of slavery was a big part of the Civil War equation, but it is a bit far-fetched to imagine tens and hundreds of thousands of northern white men leaving their homes and families to put their lives on the line for years on end, because they knew the cause was just, and they were willing to die for the freedom of their black brothers and sisters in the South.

Give me a break.

In the same vein, I can't really imagine tens and hundreds of thousands of Southern boys going off to fight and die for the right of some rich slave owners to own slaves, either. These people who went off to fight didn't own slaves. Or even a winter coat. Some of the generals and politicians did, but not the boys with no shoes, for whom it was probably rare to even interact with slaves. But these men went off willing to fight, just as the Northern men did. Why, then?

Other people say the Civil War was fought over the principle of what came to be known as "States Rights" - the contention that the Federal Government was usurping the constitutional sovereignty of individual states more and more with each passing year. Many people in the South felt the North was bullying them with unfair laws and taxes, and generally conspiring to screw them over, and that it was getting progressively worse with every passing year. These people say (with some truth, frankly) that the situation finally became intolerable. Just as certain British laws and taxes had become intolerable to their ancestors, four-score and seven years earlier, so, too, had the Federal Government - the NORTHERN government - become a hated symbol of oppression in the South.

The Civil War didn't resolve that way of thinking, of course; it is still very prevalent in our politics even today.

Were either of these things the reason the U.S. had a civil war?

If we take the word of the man who was the U.S. President during the Civil War, the reason the war was fought was "to preserve the Union" and nothing else. To quote him:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views."

And then he added:

"I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free."

This was in August of 1862. A few weeks later he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Apparently he thought freeing the slaves would injure the South's war effort. So did many others. Of course the Proclamation meant nothing until the North won the war.

What do I think personally was the reason for fighting the Civil War? I've tried to read books on both sides and try to understand both sides over the years. My inclination is to take Lincoln's statement at face value and say the Civil War was fought to preserve the Union.

The only minor tidbit, though, is that the U.S. Constitution doesn't forbid states from leaving the Union. It only says Congress shall prescribe by law the manner in which new states are admitted. And all Congress required was a blood test and a 3-day waiting period. (Actually, it requires most of the other states to agree to let the new state join the club.) Neither says anything about having to stay 'til death do them part. I guess no one contemplated that, once admitted to Heavenly Union, no state would ever contemplate giving up such divine bliss.

Legally, then, the South was right.

Moral? I suppose it would be that "being legally right" doesn't always mean you get to do it unmolested. The North had more than a little invested in the South over the years - not just money but many other things - and felt the country - as a whole - now sort of "owned" the South, in a manner of speaking. In the larger scheme of things, everybody owned everybody else, and nobody was just going to be allowed to take their ball and go home. Sometimes, even though it is your ball, someone bigger and stronger sometimes comes along and forces you to stay in the game instead of going your own way with your ball. Or your slaves, either, as far as that goes.

What do YOU think the cause of the Civil War was?

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