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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Taxes, Tourists, Kias, Socialism and Stuff

For a large society to function properly, long-term, people must be able to earn an income to live on which is independent of the government. Or, conversely, a government must be able to get an income from outside sources other than it's own people.

Government cannot really solve unemployment by simply hiring everyone to work for the government. To avoid stagnation and the eventual gridlock that is pure socialism, there must be an influx of actual "new" capital into the system.

There are two groups of people who are working for the government. First, there are actual workers who go to work each day doing the business of the government. Second are the people who are receiving monthly checks from the government as benefits or help of some kind.

Mostly, a government gets the money to meet these various "payrolls" by (1) making some of it's citizens pay certain taxes, and ALL of it's citizens pay other types of taxes; and (2) by taxing everyone indirectly through the back door by making their money worth less.
We certainly have socialism, to a degree, a large degree, in the United States. That is as it should be, I believe (except I think the proportion is too large right now.) Certainly, some things can only be done by government, and, just as certainly, our more unfortunate brothers and sisters need us to help them get by. We help these fellow citizens by each of us giving some money to the government, and then having the government pass out that money in proportion to need. (Like Karl Marx said.) That's socialism pure and simple, and there is nothing wrong with it unless and until it gets totally out of hand.

Where the danger comes in is when the government tries to take too much upon itself and forgets that "fresh" capital - that which is not simply being recirculated by the government - is necessary for the survival of the system. The second thing that must happen in order for the system to survive is for the government to keep the money supply reasonably finite and not expand it until it is worthless.

What is "fresh" capital? Fresh capital is "outside" capital. It is money a person earns or receives from sources other than the government. And it is money received by governments that they get from sources other than their own citizens - for example by selling natural resources it owns. Examples? When tourists from Japan and Germany visit the U.S. and spend money to eat and sleep and travel and to get into our national parks, that's fresh capital. When Saudi Arabia sells oil to the world that it gets from under it's ground, that's fresh capital for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia doesn't have to tax its citizens highly (or even at all, probably) because it has this fresh source of income. Saudi Arabia also, one assumes, does not have to make it's money worth less and less every day by "creating" more and more of it on the printing presses. [Incidentally, pure socialism would probably work in Saudi Arabia since the government is making enough money - now, at least - from the outside. Unfortunately a "royal" few are keeping most of it.] When a Canadian farmer sells wheat to some country elsewhere in the world, that's fresh capital for Canada. When China sells plastic toys to the world, that's fresh capital for China. When South Korea sells Kias in the U.S. (as President Obama noted in his recent jobs speech) that's fresh capital for South Korea. I might add that when a country agrees to protect South Korea or Canada so they don't have to pay for the size of army they would normally have to pay for, that is also fresh income for South Korea and Canada (or whatever countries do that.) North Korea could probably cut the size of its military by about 80% and use that money to buy food for its people, and all it would take is for North Korea to start being nice to the rest of the world. There are all kinds of possibilities for "fresh" capital generation. Don't buy U.S. Savings bonds - that's silly to lend yourself money and then pay yourself interest. Invest in British municipal bonds and make Londoners pay you interest instead. See? Fresh, non-governmental, capital for you and me.

Any money you get from sources outside your government is fresh capital. Any money your government gets from sources besides its own citizens is fresh capital. Fresh capital is an object of desire. Fresh capital creates "real" jobs and makes you pay less taxes and makes your money worth something.

In my opinion, one major goal of a government should be to facilitate the influx of fresh (non-tax) income. In my opinion, when the government "borrows" more money and uses that money to hire people (even through private companies) to build bridges and roads, those are fake jobs. They are fake because the workers are getting paid by the government (by proxy) and because the contractors are getting paid by the government (directly.) Good has happened but nothing fresh has really been produced. All this is just another example of the government "churning" tax money.
In order for socialism to work (we have already agreed - at least I've said it - we need some socialism) there must also be some capitalism, some incoming of NEW money. How do we do this? Well, tourism was a good example. Work it more. The government should facilitate tourism more, and it should also encourage private travel companies to aggressively seek out tourists from overseas. Each state has unique attractions. Each state should be working hard to get foreign tourists to come there, not only American tourists. Some already are, of course, but all could probably do more. And food. We need to go back to selling food to the world. We need to stop paving over farmland and start growing crops that other people in other countries want to buy.

And we need to start manufacturing goods for sale again. Somehow we (and most of the rest of the Western World) have got this complex in our heads that cheap is the answer and only China can do that. Well, cheap is NOT the only thing! Innovative quality products are the thing. We can sell farm tractors to the world even if they may be more expensive than China's tractors, if they last longer or if they can do things China's tractors can't do. Inventive countries can always stay ahead of, and beat, copycat countries.
The other night, President Obama made a speech to the nation about how to create jobs. One of the good points he made is that our goal should not be to see who can get to the bottom by making things cheaper than everyone else, but by aspiring to get to the top by making things that are better and and more innovative and thus more valuable to buyers around the world.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wake up and smell it

A philosophy is one's system of beliefs with regard to reality. There is only one true reality - that which is - but everyone has their own view of the world, and thus anyone can play the "magical reality" game. Barack Obama comes to mind as someone who should be mentioned here as a fine example of a magical reality kind of guy.

Well, by gosh, a philosophy seeks to understand and even explain the nature of our existence. By "our" I mean, of course, "your" - I already know the nature of my own existence. Poverty. They say (and by "they" I mean Wikipedia) that our philosophy - our belief system - becomes our personal standard through which we perceive and process ideas. In this sense, you could say that philosophy is the foundation of knowledge. I'm not sure I would say that, but smart people have said it. You are smart, so you may say that too. Barack and company destest knowledge and sound ideas, so "they" wouldn't say that.

Basically, what we want to know is, what the heck is going on and what our place is in the world. Maybe in the universe even. Somebody once said that once you start philosophizing about your purpose in life, in the universe, then you are sick. So it's a catch-22. Was it Freud? Sounds like something he would say. Somebody smart like him, anyway.

Anyway, I started out wanting to do a little post on Objectivism, a word (and philosophy) coined by Ayn Rand to explain her philosophy of life (or personal crazy sickness) because... well, because the word existentialism had already been taken, I guess. Actually, I don't have to guess - Ms. Rand admitted those very words herself. BTW, please don't get Ayn Rand mixed up with Georgia O'Keefe.

Why did I want to make a little post on the subject of Objectivism? You might well ask. I don't really know. Just because it is the weekend and J.E.B. Stuart still hasn't returned in the other series of posts anyway. Besides, Ojectivism is REALLY interesting (just not that interesting on a blog, sadly) and has the added appeal of probably pissing off liberals. Win-win. But I ramble. I know I do. Getting back on topic now. Very soon.
Gary Cooper WAS Howard Roark in "The Fountainhead." I tell you this else no one but the Rocket Scientist would have gotten the connection of the clever picture insert. Well, A. would have gotten it, because A. knows most everything and is good at free association.

Incidentally - as if you weren't impressed enough already - there is an Ayn Rand Society, which is affiliated with the American Philosophical Association (A. Phil Ass) which you also may not have heard of (your loss) because there are only a few members. Ayn Rand, Georgia O'keefe and her buddy D.L. Lawrence (and almost surely his philosophical gardner) and myself and probably Soubriquet. Most assuredly NOT Adullamite. All are dead. Well, not ALL. But the famous ones are.

Objectivism promotes the values of love, friendship, wealth, and comfort. Sadly, Ayn realized none of these things, but hey. I personally like Objectivism because it emphasizes reason and clarity, both of which I could be a universal model. in.

"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." —Ayn Rand.

Sort of like President Obama's philosophy of life, only backwards. I was reminded of the man's hatred of self-reliance as I watched his jobs speech the other night. Pretty darn good speech, by the way. I mean, pretty good for a socialist. Count me in on that more spending and higher taxes thing. Put me down for another $75. And tax the living crap out of the small businessmen who create jobs; that'll do the trick. That's fair. Heck, more than half of Americans pay zero income taxes now. You call THAT fair? Everybody should pay SOMETHING. Oh, god, I kid you.

Gettysburg Day One: the Iron Brigade sees early action

Claude-Etienne Minié, a French military officer, invented, in 1849, a "... conical-cylindrical soft lead bullet, slightly smaller than the intended firearm barrel's bore, with ... exterior grease-filled grooves and a conical hollow in it's base. The bullet was designed by Minié with a small iron plug and a lead skirting. Its intended purpose was to expand under pressure and obturate the barrel and increase muzzle velocity. It greatly increased accuracy. It came to prominence in the Crimean War and the American Civil War." [Wikipedia]


Major General John Reynolds was, in effect, a "wing" commander, in that he was in overall charge of more than one corps of the Army of the Potomac, with individual corps commanders under his direction. Certainly he was Meade's equal (or superior) in experience and ability, if not in actual fact.

As the balance of the Federal First Corps continued to come up to Gettysburg from the south, General Reynolds personally directed the deployment of the First Division of infantry on McPherson's Ridge, and supervised the placing of the artillery in such a way as to cover the infantry as they were advancing into position.

The 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the 1st Corps was called the "Iron Brigade," among the best in the Union Army. They would be sorely tested today. Time was of the essence. Fences were knocked down and haversacks and blankets were discarded as the brigade stripped for action and deployed in the path of the rapidly advancing Confederates. It would be the job of the First Division to hold out until the rest of the Corps could join the fray.

Reynolds arrayed the Iron Brigade en echelon - with the 2nd Wisconsin front right, nearest the Cashtown road from where Pender's Confederate division was approaching; followed by the 7th Wisconsin, the 19th Indiana, and the 24th Michigan. The final regiment (6th Wisconsin) was held in reserve slightly to the south on Seminary Ridge. Obviously they weren't going to hold off Heth and Pender for long, even with Buford's cavalry still engaged. But their object was to hold and delay until the rest of the corps got up. General Abner Doubleday (later the inventor of baseball) was commanding the division next in line of the upcoming First Corps, and he was making all haste to get up on Reynold's exposed right flank. The Confederates weren't waiting for that, though.

As the artillery from both sides began to boom, General Heth's brigades came in from the Northwest, led by General Archer's Alabamians. Artillery claimed the first lives of the battle on both sides. As they approached closer, the lead Confederates could hear the strains of the Union First Division's band: "The Girl I Left Behind Me". I don't know about you, but I think that took balls. At least it might have put a final smile on the faces of the Iron Brigade to hear their theme song, in the face of what was about to happen to them.

If Heth still held illusions that he was only up against unmounted cavalry and poorly-trained Pennsylvania Home Guard, he was immediately disabused of that notion. The Iron Brigade wore their legendary black sombreros with the right side turned up and pinned with the light blue infantry ribbon and sporting a plume, a la JEB Stuart; there was no chance Heth would mistake the Iron Brigade for amateur Home Guard. He let loose with more artillery and bodies began to fly. The Union guns answered. Showtime.

After directing the deployment of his infantry and guns, General Reynolds sent off a courier with an urgent message to General Meade, informing him that he had engaged the Confederates in force, and that a major battle would be fought at Gettysburg, not Pipe Creek. His message to General Mead said in part: "The enemy are advancing in strong force and I fear they will get to the heights beyond the town before I can. I will fight them inch by inch and, if driven into the town, I will barricade the streets and hold them as long as possible."

Although Pettigrew had the day before, several times, given Heth and Hill the lay of the land of Gettysburg, and had asserted that McPherson's Ridge was where the Federals were likely to defend, and General Archer had been standing right there listening, he hadn't heeded. Now the Federals were on McPherson's Ridge and were splitting his brigade.

The top of McPherson's Ridge was a farm, owned by a politician by that name, and on that farm was McPherson's woods. Into that woods went Archer's Alabamians, followed closely by the 2nd Wisconsin, followed by the Iron Brigade. Archer's Alabamians were in trouble and Archer knew it. Spilt, they were in danger of being double flanked. General Reynolds himself was directing this textbook envelopment. Unfortunately (for the Union), he recklessly exposed himself as he directed his troops. From the side, he could see the Confederates in the woods but he continued riding his big black horse and exhorting his troops, wearing his senior general's uniform: an obvious target.

Some books say it was from a sniper in a tree, but it didn't have to be: the Alabamians were fully in the woods now and had formed a skirmish line. It could have come from anyone there in that clump of trees. The Minié ball struck General Reynolds in the back of the head and came out his eye. He slumped on his horse, then fell.

It was 10:15 a.m. on the first day of Gettysburg.

Fun trivia: The Hardee Hat, with it's turned up side (reminds me of the Aussies) had been authorized to be worn by the First Brigade of the First Division in the late 1850s by the Secretary of War. At that time, the U.S. Secretary of War was a man by the name of Jefferson Davis, soon to be President of the Confederacy.

I am drawing these accounts from several (many) books, and gluing the various authors' accounts together with my own comments and narrative. Hopefully it doesn't sound too disjointed. I am, of course, leaving much out. My collection of books on the Civil War has grown large over the years. I'll publish a main bibliography at the end of this series of posts. I can't put more than this in a blog post, and, in fact, will be drastically summarizing the rest of the Gettysburg battle. I will shorten the posts because I would rather get into analyzing the battle and tactics rather than describe each individual contribution as I have up until now. In between the battle timeline, I will try to do posts on what the various generals were planning and doing along the way. I want to analyze Ewell's failure to pursue his first day's victory, and the consequences: did it lose the battle and perhaps the war for the Confederacy? I want to give my opinion about the importance of JEB Stewart's absence the first two days of the battle. Of course I want to second guess Lee's decision to frontally attack the dug-in Union's center, just as all historians have done over the past 150-odd years. I have some personal comments to make on the quality of the senior commanders of the Confederate Forces. I want to debate why Lee left the field (he wasn't really beaten after Gettysburg) and why Meade didn't pursue more aggressively. Oh, all kinds of more interesting things to argue about than simple troop movements and statistics. Hang in there. Soon I will stop describing and we can start arguing. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Military organization. Or is that an oxymoron too?

In an effort to make it even MORE fun to follow these Gettysburg posts (both previous and upcoming), please try and memorize the following information. If there are no corrections within 1 blogging day, I will assume the information is correct.

An army is broken down into specially-named organizational units. These units have "commissioned officers" who are in command. The larger the organizational unit, the higher in rank is it's commander. Usually. Following is a list of the organizational units found in an American army. They are the same names now as in the Civil War. The Confederate Army had the same organizational structure as well. They are shown in order of size:

army (commanded by a general)*
corps (commanded by a lt. general)*
division (commanded by a major general)*
brigade (commanded by - of course - a brigadier general)*
regiment (commanded by a colonel or lt. colonel, depending on size)
company (commanded by a major or captain, depending on size)

Following is a list of the ranks of "commissioned officers" in a current American army. In the Civil War, these modern ranks were also used by the Confederacy. The Union ranks for generals in the Civil War were the same except for the top generals, explained at the bottom. The ranks, from lowest to highest in today's American army (and in the Confederate Army of the Civil War are/were:

2nd Lt.
1st Lt.
Lt. Colonel
Brigadier General (1 star)
Major General (2 stars)
Lt. General (3 stars)
General (4 stars)

*In the Union Army in the Civil War, they only had Brigadier Generals and Major Generals. There was only one Lt. General (3 star) in the Union Army, and that only from 1864. That was Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant, promoted to that rank only shortly before the end of the war, when he was made commander of all the Union Armies. Also, technically, Winfield Scott was still on active duty and he was a brevet Lt. General. There were no full (4 star) generals in the Union Army back then.

Foot soldiers (or cavalry, for that matter) such as privates and corporals and sergeants, are not commissioned officers.

Commissioned officers in the Civil War had swords (sabers) and they rode horses. Cavalry of all ranks rode horses. In close fighting, cavalry would (very often) prefer sidearms to sabers. Generally, sabers were only sharpened on one side near the tip, since sabers were mostly just used for breaking collar bones and upper arms. When slashing or probing was required, the tip sufficed. Rifles were next to useless for mounted cavalry in combat, but were used, of course, by "mounted foot" who dismounted to fight in skirmish lines. Even then, carbines (rifles with much shorter barrels) were preferred. Here, it should be noted that 25% of "mounted foot" were wasted, since one man in four had to hold the four horses (which would otherwise bolt in terror, especially with incoming artillery explosions) while the other three used their rifles. Artillery was drawn by horses. Supply wagons, ammunition trains, and ambulance trains were drawn by horses. There were a LOT of horses in the Civil War. More horses than you can probably even envision were at Gettysburg and died at Gettysburg.

"Dependent on size" tells us that military organizations are always in flux, especially during battles (people get killed) and therefore you can't really say things like "a company has 150 men; a regiment has 600 men; a brigade has 3,000 men." But those are nice targets. Otherwise, an army can have as many corps as needed; a corps consists of 3 divisions if it is fully manned; a division consists of 3 brigades when fully manned. How many regiments in a brigade? As many as it takes to make up 3000 or so men. Regiments are always being merged and supplemented as people die and newly recruited regiments arrive. It is really impossible to try and say with exactness how many soldiers make up this or that organization. That is true for our modern army today as well.

In today's modern army, there are also battalions (larger than a company), platoons (smaller than a company) as well as squads and fire teams. One solitary soldier is a "troop". Not to be confused with horse cavalry units, (of the Indian Wars and of some Civil War units) some of which were also called troops collectively. "Battalions" in the Civil War often referred to the artillery units, and there were artillery brigades and even divisions, and the same applies to cavalry. A cavalry division had a LOT of horses, and long feed trains to feed them. Confederate cavalry, incidentally, brought their own horses, by and large. 60 days were given to a Confederate cavalryman to procure another horse if his got killed, and if not able to procure one, he got to be in the infantry. Artillery units will be talked about separately for those still awake at that time. The above information is intended to mainly refer to infantry. Today's cavalry is speedy ground (Bradleys, Humvees, Strykers, some tanks - perhaps ALL tanks, depending upon the mission and your definitions) and "air cavalry" consisting of helicopters instead of horses, but the purposes (recon, raids, rescue, disruption, blitzkrieg, and breaking through lines) remain the same. Although we don't usually think of major armor engagements like Patton and Rommel and Montgomery as being cavalry allegories, they really were. And certainly Patton was as much of a maverick as Stuart ever was.

Companies and regiments were recruited by the states (both sides) and sent off to war. Some larger cities could recruit entire regiments (several hundred people) but most were made up from companies recruited by smaller towns and counties. Regiments were assigned numbers followed by their state name (both sides.) Many had nicknames as well for various reasons.

Confederate generals of all four ranks wore the same insignia of rank, shown below, not 1-star, 2-stars, 3-stars or 4-stars like the army does today. Generals in the Confederate Army were appointed by the Confederate President directly. Obviously recommendations for promotions were made to him. As higher general ranks were authorized, the Confederate Congress began having to approve those high ones. The Confederate President was the Commander-in-Chief of all Confederate Army, Naval, and Marine forces. President Lincoln was Commander-in-chief of the Union forces. Incidentally, both sides had air forces, if you count air balloons which were used for (rather scary) reconnaissance work. As I understand it, they often went up tethered so as not to float over the enemy lines (that would be the scary part, otherwise.)

Many, many more tidbits keep popping into my mind that would be enhance your understanding of this battle a bit better, but I think it best to stop here since I realize a few of you are not as interested in the American Civil War as I am, and would rather analyze other things.

Confederate General Insignia (all)

Interesting (to me) trivia: Robert E. Lee was one of only six (surviving) full generals in the Confederate Army at the time of Gettysburg, in command of the entire Army of Northern Virginia. None of the other generals of the other Confederate Armies outranked him. Yet, Lee chose to wear the insignia only of a colonel (three big stars, no oak leaf encirclement). I don't remember ever having read "why" he did this, other than he was a modest man, and that doesn't make sense. I (of course) have a theory about this, which I will share in a later post.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gettysburg, Day One: Hell's to pay.

Often it is hard to put complete faith in the history books our children are taught from. Here's an example, still being printed here on the web as if it were gospel:

"The Battle of Gettysburg began quite accidentally. Two Confederate Brigades under the overall command of General Heth moved in to occupy the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Unbeknownst to them, the town was already occupied by two Union Calvary Brigades commanded by General John Buford. The fighting broke out around 8 a.m. as the Confederate Brigades moved in from the Northwest. They expected little resistance but were quite surprised to find the Union Brigades."

What a load of bullpucky! If Heth and his boss, corps commander A.P. Hill, were "surprised" to "accidentally" discover the Union cavalry in Gettysburg, it was only because their heads were too thick to allow their ears to function.

Nothing about "procuring" shoes, which was why Heth had taken 2 brigades from his division down into Gettysburg in the first place. Well, I'll bet Pettigrew and Young weren't surprised to see the Yankee cavalry parked in Gettysburg.

And cavalry usually means a main army is not far behind.

If you were a bird with sharp eyes, as most birds have, and you happened to find yourself flying from south to north over the soon-to-be Gettysburg battlefield, what you would see, as you flew, would look something like this:

You would see wheat fields, orchards, farmland, pasture, scattered woods, big rocks - with three roads coming up from the south, all converging into Gettysburg, and two more roads from the west, also converging on Gettysburg, and two more roads from the east, also converging on Gettysburg, and more roads to the north coming in from Carlisle et al. Well, you get the picture - Gettysburg was an important crossroads for travelers of all directions. You would see ridges on the left and some distinct hills and another ridge on the right, with the open land in between the two sides of ridges less than a mile wide. You would see several creeks running generally north and south; you would see the town of Gettysburg up dead ahead of you.

And, if you were making this flight of yours in the early morning of July 1, 1863, you would also see, on the road from the west, Pender's Confederate Division coming up from Cashtown. Upon another one of those roads, coming up from the south, you would spy dust clouds for as far as your sharp bird's eyes could see behind you; dust produced by tens of thousands of boots and hooves and wheels. As a bird, you would have no way of knowing this, but those boots and hooves and wheels belonged to the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac, under the extremely able command of Major General John Reynolds.

The left-hand, or west, ridge just south of Gettysburg was called Seminary Ridge. Because... umm... because there was a 3-story brick college (Lutheran Seminary) built on top of that particular ridge. Seminary Ridge would soon host the battle headquarters, a small cottage, of one Robert E. Lee, but at the moment, the Union Cavalry General, John Buford, had climbed up into the seminary's cupola and was nervously surveying the surrounding territory to the northwest. What he saw was confederate infantry moving in a proprietory fashion down towards the town of Gettysburg, and Pender moving in from the west.

Buford's cavalry had already abandoned the town and had ensconced itself upon McPherson Ridge just to the west of town. Buford rode south to the seminary to reconnoiter while his men engaged the Confederates.

General Heth, division commander of Pettigrew's brigade and others, he of the deep desire for new shoes and a penchant for ignoring advice about the enemy's troop movements, was pondering his options. Who to kill first? In his wisdom, he "felt out" the enemy and decided he faced nothing but unmounted cavalry, so, first things first, he decided to go brush the Union Cavalry off McPherson Ridge.

Buford saw from his high perch that his own men were fighting Heth's boys well, but falling back of course. As it turned out, they would continue to fall back, all the way from McPherson Ridge to Seminary Ridge, then across town all the way to Culp's hill on the other side, just north of the Cemetery, and halfway up that hill. They would have reinforcements long before then, but, then, so would the Confederates.

General Buford, of course, had sent a courier out riding fast to the south with a message to the corps commander that contact with the enemy had been made and to come at once. PLEASE come at once. He was depending on fast help from its commander, his friend John Reynolds.

If someone were to say that John E. Reynolds was the best general in the Union Army, there would be few who would dispute that statement. A 1841 graduate of West Point, he had served in Florida and in the West and, of course, in the Mexican War, under Zachary Taylor. Later, he was commandant of Cadets at West Point and also taught artillery, cavalry, and infantry tactics.

Reynolds was an outstanding horseman - some say the best the army had, equaling even J.E.B. Stuart, who would later fight for the South. Some recalled, without proof, that they had seen Reynolds pluck a dime from the ground at a gallop, back in their younger days in the West. Ah, well. I don't think I'm believing that.

Known only by General Reynolds and a handful of other people in Washington was the fact that Lincoln had offered him command of the army after Hooker resigned. Lincoln refused Reynold's condition that he be completely autonomous, and so he recommended to Lincoln that he choose Meade. Meade didn't know this, of course.

At 42, General Reynolds was still a fine horseman and he had galloped ahead of the corps and was now dismounting on top of Seminary Ridge. He had seen the Confederate columns from afar, and had smelled enough battlefields in his day not to need to wait for a courier to come tell him what was afoot. Looking around, he immediately sensed that he needed to get a division up on the heights before the Confederates moved up first.

General John Buford was probably getting more and more nervous in his perch up in the seminary cupola. He turned last to the south, and saw, what must have seemed like an endless dark line approaching up the Emmitsburg Road. Then, barely, he made out the guidon of the 1st Corps, and, next to it, the stars and stripes. Buford must have heaved a big sigh of relief: he KNEW his friend John Reynolds wouldn't let him down. He turned to climb down the steep ladder out of the cupola, anxious to buck up his troops with the news. He was startled by a familiar voice next to him.

"What's the matter, John?"

It was Reynolds, far out ahead of his corps. Buford must have been relieved beyond measure, but he only spoke the obvious:

"Hell's to pay."


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