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Civil War

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 5: Fighting Means Killing


As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Previous post – Chapter 4

Volume One: Chapter 5

  1. Davis Frets; Lincoln-McClelland
  2. Valley Campaign; Seven Pines
  3. Lee, McC: The Concentration
  4. The Seven Days; Hezekiah

“The first national conscription law in American history”

  • From page 394: “Under the influence of Lee, Davis proposed more stringent measures on a larger scale. In a late-March message to Congress he recommended outright conscription, within the same age bracket throughout the Confederacy – to make sure, he said that the burden of fighting did no fall ‘exclusively on the most ardent and patriotic’. Congress debated hotly, then on April 16, after lowering the upper age limit to thirty-five, passed the first national conscription law in American history. They passed it because the knew if was a necessity but they blamed Davis for having made it necessary by adopting the ‘dispersed defensive’, which they said had dampened nation enthusiasm. His reply – that ‘without military stores, without the workshops to create them, without the power to import them, necessity not choice had compelled us to occupy strong positions everywhere to confront the enemy without reserves’ – did nothing to assuage the anger of the States Righters, who saw in conscription a repudiation of the principles for which the war was being fought.”

McClelland continues to frustrate Lincoln by his inaction

  • From page 414: “Amazed to find that McClelland had made mo provision for the capture of Norfolk, outflanked by the drive up the opposite bank of the James, the President decided to undertake the operation himself, employing the fortress garrison under Major General  John E. Wool….As things turned out, no push or support was needed. The Confederates had evacuated Norfolk the day before, leaving only a handful of men behind to complete the wrecking of Gosport Navy Yard.”

Robert E. Lee is given command

  • Johnston wounded in the battle at Seven Pines, Smith is sick “…not from any ordinary fear but from the strain of responsibility suddenly loaded on his shoulders.”
  • From page 450: “The two men road in silence under a sickle moon. Davis was making his choice. If he hesitated, there is little wonder. His companion was the obvious candidate; but he could easily be by-passed. David, knowing better than anyone how well Lee had served in his present advisory capacity, could as logically keep him there as he kept Samuel Cooper at the Adjutant General’s post….Nevertheless, by the time the lights of beleaguered Richmond came in sight David had made his decision. In a few words lost to history, but large with fate for the two riders and their country, he informed Lee that he would be given command of the army known thereafter as the Army of Northern Virginia.”

Stonewall Jackson rides again

  • To relieve some of the pressure on Richmond with a feint north
  • From page 464: “Application of these strategic principals, plus of course the blessing of Providence – particularly in the form of such meteorological phenomena as cloudbursts and hailstones large as hen-eggs – had enabled Jackson, with 17,000 troops, to frustrate the plans of 60,000 Federals whose generals were assigned the exclusive task of accomplishing his destruction. Four pitches battles he had fought, six formal skirmishes, and any number of minor actions. All had been victorious, and in all but one of the battles he had outnumbered the enemy anywhere from two- to seventeen-to-one….Mostly this had been done by rapid marching. Since March 22, the eve of Kernstown, his troops had covered 646 miles of road in forty-eight marching days. The rewards had been enormous: 3500 prisoners, 10,000 badly needed muskets, nine rifled guns and quartermaster stores of incalculable value. All these things he could hold and look at, so to speak. An even larger reward was the knowledge that he had played on the hopes and fears of Lincoln with such effect that 38,000 men – doubtless a first relay, soon to have been followed by others – were kept from joining McClelland in front of Richmond.”

Confederate artillery again no match for Federal

  • In the Seven Days. From page 512: “Half an hour was all the needed. By 2:30, with the whole Union position still billowing smoke and coughing flame – one six-gun battery near the center, for example, fired 1300 rounds in the course of the afternoon – not a single Confederate piece with a direct line of fire remained in action. What had been intended as a preliminary bombardment had been reduced to a bloody farce.”

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