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The War Nerd / July 7, 2009

Gettysburg Museum

When the fourth of July rolls around, you’re supposed to think of, I don’t know, the Constitution and backyard cookouts like in old Chevy ads—but for me, it’s really Gettysburg we’re celebrating. Greatest battle in American history.

THE battle, for me and millions of other war-nerd kids growing up on stories of Little Round Top, the fish-hook line, and what Ewell coulda shoulda woulda done at Cemetery Hill. My grandfather from my mom’s side, the more hardcore side of the family, used to mutter about “that man” who lost the war for us, “us” being the Confederacy, but he’d never say a name, so I grew up with this real downer of a notion that there was some kind of traitor in the ranks so plain evil you couldn’t say his name, like the bad wizard in those Potter movies.

Grandpa was wrong, I can say that now; Lee still could and should have won at Gettysburg by keeping to the rule he’d used, the same one most effective American commanders have used, from Bunker Hill to New Orleans: stay on the offense strategically but take the defensive tactically, rely on firepower and protected positions, don’t trade casualties with the enemy. In other words, no Pickett’s Charge. Bleed’em and leave’em, make Meade follow you up a ridge somewhere a few miles down the road and blast him when those poor boys in blue come walking up the slope. They say Lee had the runs, but to me the runs would make you retreat. What he ended up doing was more like malaria, some fever: “Why don’t y’all take a walk about a mile through the cannonballs and see if you can occupy that heavily-fortified position up the slope, boys?” They had a BBQ, all right. Free grapeshot for everybody. Not the smart way to use outnumbered elite troops. If you were going to do Pickett’s charge at all, the way would be—God, I’m going to get letters for this—to empty out the South’s lunatic asylums and put grey body paint on the loonies, make them the first three ranks, have them advance at bayonet point and absorb some of the grape.

Of course once you start down that road, you know, the possibilities are endless. Like, why not the old “human shield” technique? Lee had occupied a lot of Union land by that time, held the town—why not have a 3rd of July town outing, as in “You Yankee ladies git out thar in fronta us and tell your boyfriends in blue not to shoot at y’all so we can survive till we’re in bayonetin’ range.”

The reason they didn’t do that is simple: they didn’t play by those rules. This ain’t Liberia or Chechnya, and thank god for that. You know how many civilians were killed in the whole battle of Gettysburg? One. I dare anybody from any other country anywhere, any time, to find me a battle with over 50,000 military casualties—and one civvies died. One! It’s incredible. People don’t realize how amazing that is. Those were supermen, there’s no other explanation. You read their letters and they write in complete sentences, they even have great handwriting, even the paragraphs work.
I can’t honestly imagine fighting that way. Read too much about modern guerrilla war, I guess, but the only commanders I really understand down in my bones are Sherman, Quantrill and Forrest. Totally different species.

Sherman wasn’t even that good at classic battle-management like Lee or Jackson. Wasn’t his thing. What he did was strategic bombing, Curtis Le May before there was an air force. Bombing at ground level. Le May would’ve understood Sherman, and so would the Mongols. Nkunda would instantly understand Forrest. And Quantrill—he’s the universal language, everybody in the rest of the filthy world would get him.

sherman1

William T. Sherman: A Crazier And Cooler Curtis Le May

But those weren’t the men who fought at Gettysburg. The fight at Gettysburg was the cleanest, finest fight ever in the world. That’s why I grew up just staring for like hours in hot afternoons in my room at those paintings. You know the Gettysburg paintings I mean? If you do, you probably know them the way I did before I started looking up stuff for this article: you know the paintings by heart but don’t much know or care who made them. As a kid I bet I could’ve drawn a decent replica of my favorite, the one with rebs and Yankees fighting hand-to-hand along a rail fence. I remember how the guy who painted it imagined the moment when the first line absorbs and infantry charge, the perfect way the main body of the attack is already sweeping past with the stars and bars high, but some of the Fed defenders have survived and a fraction of the Rebel attackers has to stop to deal with them, mop up. Every single hand-to-hand combat is so perfect. I remember there’s one doomed Union soldier fighting with his fists, rifle and bayonet gone, holding off a reb who’s trying to brain him with a gun butt. Another is skewering a confederate who’s just jumped to the top of the fence—I always liked that one, the idea of one tiny little success in a doomed fight; how would you feel if you just killed your first reb and looked around and realized your line had crumpled, the way so many Union lines did under attack in the first years of the war, and you were only going to get a few seconds to enjoy your win before you were shot or bayoneted or if you were lucky, sent down to Andersonville to die slow, starved to death by your own ex-comrades, who’d been turned into snarling stray dogs by starvation? That’d be a weird feeling, like being one of the few good soldiers in the Italian army, a kind of lonely, strategically insignificant bravery. (There were brave Italian units, by the way—a lot of them in WWI, and even a few in WW II, like the Alpini and Bersaglieri, the ones who fought the Brits in Eritrea for example).

You could spend all day in those paintings. All the matchups, bayonet on rifle butt on fist on pistol on cannon, all the ways you could die and kill in the finest battle in history. There were other battles I liked the paintings of, like Custer’s Last Stand, but you get a little older and the teacher makes you read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and you can’t be as thrilled at how cool Custer looks with his hat off, drawing a bead with that long revolver in the middle of a pile of dead pincushion horse soldiers. Custer was on the wrong side, the way the teacher told it. I know better than that now too, of course; there ain’t no better side in a war of extermination, and both sides in the Indian Wars knew damn well that’s what was going on. One was just a lot bigger and better-armed, and there was only one way it could end.
And other battles too, like Jackson at New Orleans, there’s always some nagging social-studies thing to pick at, “What about the slaves?” to bring you down. But not Gettysburg. The more you know about it, the finer, cleaner, more goddamn magnificent it was. One civilian killed, by accident at that, while she was working in the kitchen, a stray bullet. Just the two finest armies in the world—Europeans still don’t understand that either of those armies could have marched unstoppable from Liverpool to Moscow, a red-white-n-blue knife through moldy Euro-butter. (I’m not saying they coulda GOT to Liverpool, because the Royal Navy was the only military force that really did have a chance of stopping them.)

As a kid I never knew where those paintings came from. No, that’s wrong. I knew exactly where they came from: from those Bruce Catton books I soaked up instead of doing my homework or “going out and playing.” I was always getting that: “It’s a beautiful day, don’t just sit around reading!” Well it wasn’t a beautiful day, it was hot, for one thing. And I wasn’t reading. I was looking at those paintings.

gettsyburg-cycle2

Parents caught creating a future war-nerd

How did anybody ever get dumb enough to think that a few splatters on a canvas in a museum is art when you’ve got the paintings of Gettysburg to live up to? Hell, maybe that’s why art dissolved into dumb frat pranks like the abstract shit: because they couldn’t live up to the Gettysburg paintings, just like we aren’t fit to shine the busted brogans of the men who fought at Little Round Top, so we get all ironic and shit, because we can’t live up to them.

You look at these battle paintings and you see the artists were so into the story, what was actually going on, they didn’t worry about their fucking “style” or blurring everything up so the cool critics would think they were edgy. They painted as well as they could, so you could get a clear picture of what was happening. When people stopped doing that and started painting blurry and bad on purpose, that was when things went to Hell.

In the battle paintings you’re just there, on the field; you’re not thinking about the damn artist and his little ideas. You’re there, fighting for your life as the rebel flag sweeps by (just to spite my grandpa, I always imagined myself as a Union guy). And that’s where it really gets painful, a guy like me at Gettysburg. Oh, I’d hold the line, it wouldn’t be anything as simple as turning tail. But just imagine it, pushing the glasses up on my pig nose with the fat-sweat running down, dying of thirst—Pennsylvania in July—big belly bouncing along going “Ow ow ow” with the blisters on my flat feet.

Actually you don’t have to use your imagination. Just take a close slo-mo look on your DVD player when you rent that movie Gettysburg from 1993. Look at the extras from the reenactment societies, especially the rebs who break through the rail fence to storm Buford’s skirmish line, and you’ll see bellies wobbling out of their long johns like mine would. I don’t mean to make fun of anybody here except maybe myself; we’re fat because that’s how our lives are, and they were thin because they marched all day on next to nothing. But it still adds up to we’re gross and weak, and not fit to call ourselves their descendants. Like people like to say, it is what it is, and it ain’t pretty.

Just try imagining yourself advancing in formation with these rail-skinny real men either side. Not Hollywood thin, cocaine thin, but sleeping outdoors on weevil-biscuit rations for years thin, working all day on the farm from the time you could walk thin, men who meant every goddamn word, to the death, more serious than any grandpa you ever had and probably funnier too, when they had a second by the campfire, nineteen going on sixty.

And you know what breaks my heart? I can’t even find that painting on google now. I did a Google Image search for “Gettysburg painting” and most of them seem to be captures from the Gettysburg cyclorama, which sounds great but none of the close-ups are exactly the painting I used to have in the Civil War books I had. It seems to be gone. I don’t believe in much but I do believe in Google. If it doesn’t show up in the first ten pages of a Google Image search, it’s as gone as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And I couldn’t find my painting in those ten pages. And to me, maybe I’m superstitious, but to me that’s a real bad omen.

Read more:, Gary Brecher, The War Nerd

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86 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. doctor k  |  July 7th, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    I know the paintings and I know the books too… the one I had as a kid was illustrated by Lee J. Ames and I must have read the thing a million times. I can still see the one illustration of 1st manassas where a confederate cavalryman is bounding down the line pointing back to stonewall himself to inspire the troops. phew.

  • 2. Sublime Oblivion  |  July 7th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    “I May Not Know Much about Art, But I’ve Got A Gun”

    Love the slogan.

  • 3. Eren  |  July 7th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    really liked this article, nice to see the war nerd talking passionately about one of his favorite battles.
    i don’t think its right to say that the confederacy and the union could have taken on any european army and won. the prussians would have something to say about that.

  • 4. Backyard cookouts  |  July 7th, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Smells like brecher got progressive dementia. Have no
    other explanation. Americans cutting through Liverpool with first rank schizophreniacs? As fas as I understand he thinks he is Nkunda now?

  • 5. Strahlungsamt  |  July 7th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more about the demise of great art. See, the Greatest Generation destroyed Great Art the way the Internet destroyed Great Sex!

    Great Art was about depicting the world realistically. About accurate portraits and accurate depictions of events. Great Art required talent, discipline and hard work. Today’s art is shit. Every decade since WWII has seen the bar lowered so shittier and shittier artists can be mistaken for greatness but they have no soul.

    Bit like the Internet. Back in the old days, if you wanted to get laid, you went out and got a real woman. You were less picky if she had great tits or not or a great ass. She was warm to the touch and ready to go.

    Today you go on the Internet and jerkoff to Jessica Juggs. She might be the perfect body but you will never feel the warmth and excitement of a real woman. You don’t even have to be a real man. Kind of like a modern day hipster artist. No talent needed.

  • 6. dara  |  July 7th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Whatever about the Brits French and Russians (still think the comment is a bit over the top), Mr Brecher, aren’t you forgetting that passing from Liverpool to Moscow would have required traveling through Berlin and Prussia, home of the finest fighting force in the 19th century world.

  • 7. AJK  |  July 7th, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Hey War Nerd, the book I had growing up was by Mort Kunster, and for the good of all of these folks reading, I should let you know that his website is http://mkunstlergallery.com/

    He can be a bit God-y and Anglo-y, but hey, thats 1860’s America for ya.

  • 8. Grimgrin  |  July 7th, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    “I do not say that the Confederacy cannot come. I only sat that it cannot come by sea”

    To paraphrase what some nameless lord of the Admiralty might have said if he had heard that Lee meant to march on blighty.

    And America v Europe in those days would have been like Tyson going to prison. Could have taken any man in there in a stand up fight. But that’s not how the fight would have gone, and I’m pretty sure everyone knows it.

    And if there’s anyone here who hasn’t read it, read Sherman’s letter to Atlanta

    http://www.sagehistory.net/civilwar/docs/ShermanAtl.htm

  • 9. Sherman  |  July 7th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Sherman there looks like the original American badass before Bruce Willis and more authentic.

  • 10. mullah  |  July 7th, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    yeah, right, Brecher !
    Those Rebs ( remember “poor white trash” ) and Yanks ( mostly inarticulate recent dregs cast off from Europe – why do you think they went into Lincoln’s draft so meekly ? ) They woulda both of them, or seperately, even, perhaps even with one hand tied behind their back, walked through the likes of Napoleon, von Moltke, Suvorov, Duke of Wellington and all of theirs that had been good enough to get to stay in Europe to begin with. Definitely.

    Best hit on those history books for some review – you’re gittin a little fuzzy

  • 11. Allen  |  July 7th, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    I disagree about “great art” comment above. If you want realistic renderings, take a photograph. Realism is not by itself the purpose of art.

    To the article

    It may be a romanticized view; but it’s hard not to find a certain sense of alien fanaticism in the 19th century and early 20th c European and North American mind set. I have read that documents recovered from the lost Franklin Expedition reported that, as the men slowly starved and froze to death, they felt it proper to take a moment to appreciate nature and this last chance to really enjoy the outdoors (!) — and overall to take pride in dying for King and country, which is all a man could really ask for anyway.

    Similarly the French attempt to control the Sahara desert — which is nearly half as large as the entire United States — makes for some crazy anecdotes. Like how large portions of France’s legionnaires simply marched themselves to death (or else slumped dead off their camels) in the desert heat rather than try and stop or issue any sort of complaint. They pushed themselves beyond the limits of exhaustion and into death just trying to get from one far flung outpost to another — their commanders felt it was quite a tribute to their manliness …

    Those people were not like us.

    Nor do I think any military force would have easily marched through them, to say nothing of Prussia.

  • 12. Geoduck  |  July 7th, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    I have to wonder if what ultimately killed that sort of art wasn’t (just) The Decline Of Western Civilization(tm) but the invention of the camera. You want to show people what something (pretty much) looks like? Click. You’re done.

    And to claim that the Internet invented the concept of “sex-killing pornography” is at best an exaggeration. A lot of the soldiers on that Pennsylvanian battlefield were carrying cold, hard, dirty pictures in their rucksacks. The ‘Net just made it easier to get hold of the stuff.

  • 13. geo8rge  |  July 7th, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Lee still could and should have won at Gettysburg by keeping to the rule…

    Lee was operating in the Pennsylvania without supplies and intelligence (Stuarts calvary). The Union army was to his south. He was pressed for time due to poor logistics. His best option would have been to withdraw.

  • 14. adolphhitler  |  July 7th, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    the issue isn’t whether the prussians were better, its where would the fight take place.
    the union army was on a moral crusade which made it unbeatable once the north became mobilized for total war per clauswitz. the confederacy had totally mobilized its manpower to sustain its culture which greatly motivated its army to fight off any invader. either could destroy a prussian army that invaded the the U.S.
    however,if either army invaded europe they would lose thir moral motivation. no way could we get our volunteer citizen soldiers to go to europe to fight like true professionals.
    if we tried the prussians’, being true professionals, would have used their superior road and rail network to kick our ass. the dreyse needle gun and krupp breachloading cannon wouldn’t have hurt either

  • 15. deisk  |  July 7th, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Hey war Nerd,

    I challange you to write about the battle of Mgdala and the idiot Napier!

  • 16. adolphhitler  |  July 7th, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    eren and dara…i just realized you may be females…i am very impressed…i never met a woman who knew shit about war let alone prussia…wanna go out?

  • 17. porkers-at-the-trough  |  July 7th, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Lighten up, WN!! Sherman was NOT crazy… he was SO _NOT_ crazy, that he WENT CRAZY!

    As you know, Sherman foresaw that the (Civil) war would be one, long, bloody strategic, attrition, mass bloodletting mess, and it literally drove him crazy… near insane, near dismissal from the army.
    (If I recall, his old buddy Grant rescued him from oblivion..)
    It was only when Sherman resolved himself – when he realized the Confeds were going to start a RIVAL EMPIRE that would forever after be fightin’ & attacking American targets (think France vs England; or Germanics vs Romans, or Turks vs Christians, or any of the dozens of other long, hundreds-of-years bloody slogs) – that Sherman steeled himself to do to the South what (for example) slave trades on behalf of Southern plantation ownwers did to the villages in Africa that were (literally) raped, tortured, pillaged, & burned to ground in those slave raids.

    Funny thing, you look at that painting of “Grant’s Generals” – all riding line abreast with Grant in the artistic glory of a calvary charge (hanging in one of the big government museums in DC) – and realize “these generals, almost singlehandedly, prevented the Confed empire from continuing the practice of slavery; but practically every one of ’em went out west to be genocidal Injun fighters.

  • 18. Anthony  |  July 7th, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    I don’t see why anyone is upset that Great Art is no longer about realism. Back when the only way to capture an image perfectly was to master painting and work on an image for hours, sure, that was impressive. It served an important purpose, as a record that couldn’t be created in any other way. However, there’s not really any point to it now. When any fool can take a cheap camera and get a more exact image in a millionth of the time and with little or no training in comparison, realistic painting isn’t nearly as important anymore.

    Perhaps the logical thing would have been for everyone to just take up photography, but people have been painting more or less as long as there have been people, and they’re not going to give it up just because its old role is obsolete. Naturally it’s not as meaningful as it used to be when it had an important historical role, but even the most abstract art makes more sense than wasting time promoting realistic painting just because it’s traditional and because it used to be really important.

  • 19. porkers-at-the-trough  |  July 7th, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Oh yeah.. them Reb generals most certainly DID SHAKE DOWN the northern (Union) cities they marched through… just before the Battle of Monacacy, July 1864 (while Grant was slogging through Virginia’s bloody Spotsylvania & Cold Harbor battles), General Jubal Early’s army marched through Fredrick, MD, and he demanded $200,000 from the city fathers to prevent his burning the town down… or his men would have done their “High Plains Drifter,” or “Quantril invades Lawrence Kansas” impressions.
    Fredrick didn’t pay off the note (which local owners had to borrow from nationwide banks) until the 1970s.. well over 100 years later!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Monocacy
    “At Frederick, following the Battle of Frederick in which Confederate cavalry drove Union units from the town, Early demanded, and received, $200,000 ransom to forestall his destruction of the city.”
    Gettysburg was saved from this fate, and the fate of Lawrence, because the South had the flower of its generals were all converging on the city in a fast, orderly battle formation, & moral was high with the tide of war still hanging in the balance, and other assorted good luck.

  • 20. Frank McG  |  July 7th, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I think the decline of “realistic” art was the result of photographs and movies getting sharper. Before photography people only had art to depict real life. Afterwards they probably got jaded on real life so it switched to the abstract to get their kicks.

    As far as war art goes, if anything has killed war movies for me, it’s shakey cam (ruined most action movies in general). Ever since Saving Private Ryan (good opening scene, worthless everything else), every war movie has slapped together shakey cam footage and called it a day.

    When will film makers learn that a camera is NOT a human eyeball? It doesn’t make me feel like I’m right there watching the action, it makes me feel like I’m looking at the footage of a war corespondent wobbling around with his camera.

  • 21. AR  |  July 7th, 2009 at 9:52 pm

    Best EO article in a while. God bless the America that was; God save us from what it will become.

  • 22. Wilhelm  |  July 7th, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    He must’ve meant from Liverpool to Moscow through America and Siberia.

  • 23. Anonymous  |  July 8th, 2009 at 12:43 am

    Eh, we’re fatter, as a group. But we could change the culture to make the gym less the province of jocks and bullies and more the province of ordinary people who wanted to stand up and make themselves better without hurting anyone, and I think we just might. And we already have much better teeth than our ancestors, and eyes, and skin. And better machinery to do our heavy lifting. We have better lives.

    Did we miss your point, all of us young optimistic peacenik Obama supporting futurist science fiction fans? Or did you miss ours, long ago?

  • 24. Kavuye Toon  |  July 8th, 2009 at 4:55 am

    Wonderful piece, Gary. Please write more articles about your favorite battles, please!

  • 25. Mark Nuckols  |  July 8th, 2009 at 6:11 am

    A bit heavy handed there, Gary.

    But one political point to make. What a stupid bloody pointless war. One million or so young men die, in a country with not that many millions of young men, and for what? So that the Stars and Bars can fly over post offices in the South? That’s really about it. And so that black slaves can become de jure free while de facto slaves. And yet even seven or so generations later people Americans feel compelled to endow the Civil War with some sort of nobility and purpose.

    No. Because of the mistakes of Union and Confederate politicians, a lot of people died pointless idiotic deaths, and the South was thrown into generations long poverty and backwardness.

  • 26. alibi  |  July 8th, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Hey man… what do you smoke? Man… I want that shit too.

  • 27. Joe Blow  |  July 8th, 2009 at 9:02 am

    THe American Civil War was a watershed event.

    This was the first use of minie-balls and rifled muskets in any quantity. Breach loading rifles, wide use of well made repeating pistols. Iron-clad ships, with revolving turret, aerial observation, trench warfare, mines, railroads, medical tents, and telegraph.

    Too bad tactics were still Napoleonic and resulted in things like Pickett’s charge. Later, after Cold Harbor, no one was charging a breastwork again. Full blown trench warfare lasted then until the break at Petersburg.

    Almost none of these lessons were added to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, except railroads. Later they had to be re-learned in the fields of death of WWI.

    Good article.

  • 28. AlKhabir  |  July 8th, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Realism in painting was already on its way out at the turn of the 19th century, long before the invention of the camera. Check out Constable’s “Snowstorm: Hannibal and his Army Crossing the Alps” for a painting that combines realism with very unusual composition and expressive brushwork.

    But great article WN. These commanders put our European “gentleman” soldiers to shame.

  • 29. bru-skyline  |  July 8th, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    If doctor k above is correct, the book and illustrations of which Gary Brecher is speaking, seems to be by Fletcher Pratt, ‘The Civil War in Pictures,’ from 1955, with illustrations by Lee J Ames, Garden City – Doubleday … seems to be available for 50 cents on some of the various used book lists …

  • 30. Carlito  |  July 8th, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Everyone thinks they can march to Moscow.

  • 31. War Pigs  |  July 8th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    >> But one political point to make. What a stupid bloody pointless war. One million or so young men die, in a country with not that many millions of young men, and for what?

    I think Gettysburg was about the 1/2 way into total civil war blood-letting. After Lee squandered his army there, the southern forces should have packed up their shit and went home. Game over. Instead, they continued fighting. What we now call “dead-enders”.

    As for pointless war, it seems to be largely an expression in group think, conformity, and alpha male peacocking. Cowards who refuse to fight and/or flee are usually punished severely. If they are not killed or imprisoned, then they will return to their community and get shunned by women.

    The American Civil War was “glorious”, for the simple fact that mainly men did the dying. You can kill off the bulk of a societies men, and it will still survive for another day. But when large numbers of women get pulled into the violence, then its no longer “glorious”, but rather ugly massacre / genocide.

  • 32. Nestor  |  July 9th, 2009 at 4:59 am

    These people were no doubt tough and inured to hardship, but unhealthy as fuck. It doesn’t take long to whip a fatass into shape, and he has solid bones and healthy organs, no vitamin deficiencies and fat deposits a plenty to go marching.

    I’ll take that over a rickets survivor any day.

  • 33. jester l  |  July 9th, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Warnerd, I have to correct your comment on the Civil War armies rivaling Europe’s. By the 1840s, all major Euro-armies used rifles, starting with the Prussian needle-gun. The U.S. was still using smooth bore muskets. They would have been slaughtered by Europe. The U.S. was still a backwater compared to Europe at that time.

  • 34. girondistnyc  |  July 9th, 2009 at 10:56 am

    The mid to late period American Civil War armies were indeed terrifyingly effective at what they did and deserve more respect than Europeans tend to give them. I’d take a brigade of Sherman or Longstreet’s men over their Prussian 1870, Crimean British or Turkish war Russians equivelents any day (equalizing for rapidly advancing long arm and artillery developments). But most, if not all, of this is surely just battle experience — after Waterloo and until 1914, European wars were gross mismatches and/or very short. No matter how excellent the parade ground drill and regimental elan, it can’t compensate for years of experience in large scale battle. Even the best Prussian soldiers would have only had at most a couple of days of the Sadowa campaign plus the short 1870 campaign (shooting franc-tiraeurs is surely a different thing). Contrast with someone who lived from Bull Run to Petersburg (unlikely but certainly possible).

    The flip side is of course that the armies of 1916 could have marched merrily from DC to SF if they were united and magically transported to the eastern seaboard.

  • 35. Mar C  |  July 9th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    It is surely possible to march from liverpool to Moscow. The question is: when?

    I would say these days it is more than possible, just make sure your documents are in order.

  • 36. Robert Reis  |  July 9th, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    Dear Gary,
    Great article as usual.
    I suggest that Lincoln is responsible for turning the USA into the psychopathocracy it is today.

  • 37. Dr. J  |  July 10th, 2009 at 3:36 am

    So Robert, slavery was good; hypocrisy non-existent? Could it have been the landed aristocracy, of Madison, Jefferson and Washington et al. that gave birth to this psychopathy?

    AR, as for the America that was and will become: America was and continues to be the land of the aristocratic gentry, landed then and corporate now.

    And as for God, why do you think She gives a shit one way or another (see Stephen Crane’s bit about the man who calls out to the universe.)

  • 38. Jack Boot  |  July 10th, 2009 at 8:04 am

    A few points, if I may:

    1) The great artists of yore worked for autocrats with good taste – Medicis, Borgias, etc. “Not bad, Leo; paint bigger tits on the Blessed Virgin and you’ve got yourself a sale!”
    Today, art is subsidized by various bureaucracies; and it shows…

    2) The Union Army could have been equipped with state-of-the-art firearms, far superior to Prussian needle guns or French Chassepots: Henry and Spencer repeating rifles, not to mention Gatling guns.
    An army so beweaponed would have made short work of the Rebs; or anyone else, come to that.
    But noooo; the Union’s chief supply officer, a certain Gen. Ripley, nixed ’em all -they’d waste ammunition, don’t you know. Believe it or not, indeed…
    Ripley was finally booted out in 1863;
    his replacement approved production of the above-mentioned arms, but only a few had reached the troops by war’s end. Pity…

    3) Realistically, how long could a victorious Confederacy have maintained slavery? Until 1880? 1920? 1960?
    It would surely have become a sort of apartheid South Africa: an isolated, boycotted pariah state.

  • 39. Azr@el  |  July 10th, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    A little reality check:

    A) Photo-realism is inferior form of painting to abstract art; one relies upon flooding the eyes with data the other forces the mind to fill in the blanks; BMP versus JPEG if you will.

    B) Tecumseh Sherman was the greatest American general who ever took the field, he was the first modern general produced outside of the Eurasian Steppes. Compared to him, Lee, Grant and all the rest were drooling imbeciles. P.S. Only pansies sort in the g’nads called him William.

    C) Liverpool to Moscow? Grant nor Lee would’ve been able to pull that off. War is ultimately an exercise in motivation and persuasion. Soldiers regularly deserted Grant’s and Lee’s armies when they opportunity presented itself. Hard slogging thru Far West Eurasia would have seen either army melt away. Tecumseh’s armies on the other hand held together well deep behind enemy lines, desertion was almost none existent; why? Plunder and booty. To be in Tecumseh’s army meant getting your hand on white southern wealth and white southern daughters, few troops would turn that down. Tecumseh kept his troops as far away from stand up knockout fights as he could and used maneuver to conserve his numbers and instill fear in his enemies. Life as one of uncle Sherman’s boys was considered a fortunate pull in a world with nutters like Grant, Lee et al looking to feed the ranks into the grinder for the sake of a clean fight. Such an army could’ve gone from Liverpool to Moscow, but they wouldn’t have left anything in their wake. That was their form of persuasion; burned out cities, pregnant chicks and the bitter harvest still bumping up in the South.

  • 40. Rpche  |  July 10th, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Dr. J and Jack Boot, remember that every other Western nation had abolished slavery peacefully. It’s also pretty clear that slavery would have eventually ended peacefully in the Confederacy as well, probably well before 1900.

  • 41. Michael B  |  July 11th, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Gettysburg for me was the freebie school field trip. If you can get there Gary, do so.

    As a bit of trivia, we had cans for bullets that came out of the lumber we used for wood shop. Hollow points for the Union, round shot for the rebels. We were still finding bullets in the mid 80s.

  • 42. Carpenter  |  July 11th, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    The part about dressing up civilians in uniform – that is exactly what the Soviets did in World War II. A German soldier wrote home about how row after row of Russians came walking across a field at night toward the Germans. The Germans kept firing and mowing down the attackers, but these Russians didn’t fire back. Afterward they discovered that these were all peasants, forced to walk forward by the communist commissars, simply to make the Germans run out of bullets. The entire Soviet Union was a prison where the commissars were the prison guards, killing 60 million. And now you know why so many Russian civilians died in WWII.

  • 43. Alok  |  July 11th, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    It’s ok to feel patriotic on your Independence Day “Gary”.

    Just don’t need to sound like your own crotchety granddad in doing so.

    This amounts to calling WW1 the most glorious moment in EU history.

    …and for stuff about “it was just not how war was fought in those days”, go read any account (British or Indian) on how the Sepoy Mutiny/1857 Rebellion/First War of Indian Independence was fought. Both sides fielded European trained/European soldiers, and made anything Sherman did to any Southern settlement seem merciful and humane.

  • 44. Starvid  |  July 11th, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    War Pigs,

    In pretty much all wars the majority of casualties (soldiers and civvies) happen after the decisive battle was fought (American civil war, WW1, WWII in both Europe and the Pacific, Vietnamn, and the list goes on).

    Check this graph showing losses during the American civil war: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/images/spengler-graph.gif

    The world would be a much better place if people had the sense to know when they’re defeated.

    It seems though, that they don’t.

    “In all, one-quarter of military age Southern manhood died in the field, by far the greatest sacrifice ever offered up by a modern nation in war. General W T Sherman, the scourge of the South, explained why this would occur in advance. There existed 300,000 fanatics in the South who knew nothing but hunting, drinking, gambling and dueling, a class who benefited from slavery and would rather die than work for a living. To end the war, Sherman stated on numerous occasions these 300,000 had to be killed. Evidently Sherman was right. For all the wasteful slaughter of the last 18 months of the war, Southern commander Lee barely could persuade his men to surrender in April 1865. The Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, called for guerilla war to continue, and Lee’s staff wanted to keep fighting. Lee barely avoided a drawn-out irregular war.”

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EF12Ak01.html

    Jack Boot,

    The South, as Brecher mentions in passing, was aiming for a Carribean slave empire which might have become too big and important enough (especially as a balance to the USA) to be ignored and isolated.

  • 45. Ali Choudhury  |  July 12th, 2009 at 5:01 am

    Grant was the originator of the strategy of launching Union armies deep into CSA territory and living off the land. Sherman used the army that he built.

    Sherman at Shiloh would have broken and run. He’d have not been able to handle the brutal Eastern campaigning of 1864-5 against Lee’s ANV or the heavy political pressure. He’d have lost his shit and shot any newspaperman or Congressman he could find. Grant would suck up the pressure and go on a bender when the danger had been dealt with. He knew how to use logistics and firepower to win. He also understood to win wars, you have to spend casualties. Grant with an army of Prussians could have stomped his way across the world.

    Sherman looked damn good because he had nobody to fight in the West. Grant could do everything Sherman could do and better and had a lot more to offer – see Vicksburg campaign. Heck in the beginning of the 20th century he was ranked as being up there with Washington and Lincoln. Plus bonus points for writing the best set of memoirs by any American political figure on history while suffering from terminal cancer.

  • 46. Merc  |  July 12th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    The best army? What is it with Americans always thinking they’re number one. Didn’t Sherman get his ass whipped at Bull Run? Granted, after Bull Run Sherman got to be bad ass, but he still got an ass whopping. And it wasn’t even by General Lee, it was General Joe Johnson. I want to see either Union or Confederate army go up against Suvorov’s Russian Army. Suvorov was UNDEFEATED. Same could be said of von Moltke’s Prussian Army, that came a bit later. Both Union and Confederate armies, and their commanders, were defeated. And for those yelling “but not Jackson” – check out Kernstown. So yeah, undefeated vs. defeated, uh-huh, Americans always going we’re #1, suuure.

    Not to mention the tactical stuff, where you basically had artillery barrage, infantry charge, artillery barrage, infantry charge, calvary scout, artillery barrage, infantry charge. No creativity. Well there was a bit, but not enough to change the war’s outcome.

    Now let me show you what I mean by creativity. During World War II, my favorite war cause, well first off Good Guys and Bad Guys are so damn obvious, secondly because of the multitude of tactics used on the Eastern Front, and thirdly, because the two best armies duked it out and the Red Army, my favorite army, won. (Yes they comitted atrocities, and which WWII army didn’t? Oh right, the Italins, who’d they beat again?) So anyways during World War II one Russian engineer was told about Nazi tanks rolling on their way to his village. His native village.

    So he ordered a ditch dug in the road, filled about half of it with oil, calculated the weight of the Panzer tanks, and made it so that once ten or more tanks rolled onto the ditch, (that was surrounded by trees) the self-made bridge would crack, and the Panzer tanks would fall into the oil, which would then be lit on fire from Molotov Cocktails and the crew would be finished off by snipers. That’s fucking genius. That’s real military tactics, not Bunker Hillism. Needless to say, there were no Nazi surviviours and the Soviets were drinking vodka that night. I just hope it was quality vodka, they deserved it.

  • 47. rick  |  July 12th, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    @carpenter “Soviet commissars responsible for huge Russian civilian death toll in WW2” Bullshit. The Germans intended to kill huge numbers of civilians in Poland, the Ukraine and Russia, for new German racial settlements. The Wehrmacht requisitioned all their food and executed peasants directly. That story might be true, but it’s the first I’ve ever heard of that dressing-up-peasants practice, anecdotally, so it’s probably not statistically relevant. It’s incredibly stupid, anyway, and the Red Army was very well-equipped (despite romantic fantasies like the one rifle per two men in Enemy at the Gates and Call of Duty). Even the “Great Purge” was only 644,000 people. Soviets were only responsible for 10 or 12 million deaths of their own citizens–tops! And if you take offense with the way they conducted themselves martially, just imagine how rapidly the Wehrmacht would have disassembled a shitty Tsarist army, or some social democratic reform pussies. 8 weeks? I’d say 4. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

  • 48. Jack Boot  |  July 13th, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Two corrections, rick:

    1) The Red Army indeed fielded some world-class weapons – the PPSh, T-34, Shturmnovik, LA-5, etc; but could never have defeated the Wehrmacht without US-supplied trucks, field radios/telephones, and above all Spam.

    2) Responsible estimates of the Soviet death toll (from shooting, starvation, overwork, etc) range from 20 to 60 million. Splitting the difference yields a plausible 40 million.

  • 49. Azr@el  |  July 13th, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    i) Grant was a rank amateur, his strategy tended to favour frontal attacks against entrenched defenders; in this regards he would have been right at home on the Western Front during that 4 year long gay parade called WWI. A general doesn’t have to undefeated to great; Giap case in point.

    ii) The Soviets were not evil, you did not become a communist thinking,” Yeah I’m gooing to eff over the proles”. Rather it was as if some moron handed over governance of the nation to the DMV. No one intends to be prick , but stupid ideas tend to flourish in unaccountable bureaucracy. Some Soviet Bureaucrat had an idea that the Ukraine would be easier to manage with a few million less inhabitants; no peer review, no appeals > straight to implementation, all the idealistic guys who joined up? They rationalize it as the means to a utopic end.

    iii) And just to make sure every is clear on this; the Krauts did not need an excuse to butcher Soviets citizens. German soldiers did not say, “oops we killed some civilians by accident, let’s hold an investigation”.

  • 50. responsible  |  July 13th, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    no shit JackBoot ?
    60meg commies killed ?
    well why the hell didn’t Churchill and his american stooges not just walk , er, drive to Moscow the way they wanted to do back in 1918-20 when they visited Murmansk? There woulda only been something like 100meg commies left, just about all old women. And they coulda had it all – what dumb fucks !!!

  • 51. rick  |  July 13th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Soviet death tolls: I’ve read all the books, I see the big 40,000,000 estimates, and the 150,000,000 black book of communism horseshit: my question is where do you get those corpses? Neocon Anne Applebaum put GULag deaths around 2.5 million, for the whole history of the GULag system. Arch-whatever-con Robert Conquest eventually halved his Ukraine famine death estimates to 3-4 million. The “Great Purge” of 1937 involved 644,000 executions. Soviets killed millions of their own troops during WW2, yeah. Those are the biggies, mostly estimated by conservatives half-pulling numbers of their asses. Unless I’m missing something big, that’s 10-12 million dead, with the addition of steady little purges and ethnic cleansing and so forth. Where do you get the extra 30,000,000 corpses?

  • 52. James  |  July 13th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    “A German soldier wrote home about how row after row of Russians came walking across a field at night toward the Germans. The Germans kept firing and mowing down the attackers, but these Russians didn’t fire back. Afterward they discovered that these were all peasants, forced to walk forward by the communist commissars, simply to make the Germans run out of bullets”

    Because of course, the Red Army was entirely devoid of the dreaded peasants. Because when you just stop & think about the demographics of Russia for a fucking second that makes a whole lot of sense.

  • 53. James  |  July 13th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    “Dr. J and Jack Boot, remember that every other Western nation had abolished slavery peacefully. It’s also pretty clear that slavery would have eventually ended peacefully in the Confederacy as well, probably well before 1900.”

    The Confederacy made quite a big thing of slavery. White nationalism was hard-wired into its very edifice. It’s hard to see that altering – you might POSSIBLY have ended slavery, but you’d basically have had a far worse pre-Civil Rights movement South, at BEST.

  • 54. sk  |  July 13th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I once had a professor who said that dark ages are often characterized by, aside from living in hovels and a lack of running water, a longing for former glory and idolization of ancestors. Sounds about right.

  • 55. Azr@el  |  July 13th, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    “A German soldier wrote home about how row after row of Russians came walking across a field at night toward the Germans”

    In reality the Krauts were in tanks and came upon a village of civilians.

    “The Germans kept firing and mowing down the attackers, but these Russians didn’t fire back.”

    This is because the Russians were mainly unarmed women, children and the elderly who were kneeling in ditches and begging for mercy.

    “Afterward they discovered that these were all peasants,”

    Actually the Krauts knew this beforehand.

    “forced to walk forward by the communist commissars,”

    Again they were too tired to walk because their Nazi “liberators” had forced them to dig ditches all morning.

    “simply to make the Germans run out of bullets”

    Damn greedy Russian peasants always soaking up the bullets like they grow on trees. Fortunately crafty Germans would develop special anti-peasant gas to conserve bullets.

    Don’t get me wrong, no one’s hands are clean, the Ruskies gassed their fair share of minorities in the 20’s and weren’t above a little ditch filling…heck who are we kidding, the Soviets filled a lot of ditches.
    The problem with the Nazis or the English is that they’re so smug about their atrocities. They actually think they’re doing you the favour of butchering you, whereas the Ruskies understand that what their doing is going to require an afterlife full of vodka and regrets.

  • 56. Jack Boot  |  July 14th, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Unlike the Nazis, Soviet archives were never examined by outsiders. Also, I have no doubt that the KGB were careful to burn everything incriminating in 1989.
    Therefore, the true Soviet death toll will never be known.
    But, let us assume for the sake of argument that Stalin & friends murdered “only” 12 million counter-revolutionaries. Does that make it all right, then?
    It would be analogous to Charlie Manson’s lawyer arguing: “My client didn’t murder 7 people – 2 or 3, tops! Have a heart; let him go.”

  • 57. rick  |  July 14th, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I just said “tops” because George C. Scott says it in Dr. Strangelove. Who’s moralizing shit? That’s the problem. Neocon dipshits can’t admit Stalin’s policies undid the Nazis, because the Enron ledger has to make sense, like Dolan says. What do you think Mencken, Nietzsche, and the eXile were getting at? The underlying premises of mainstream debates are utterly infantile. “GOOD? BAD? DUUUH!” They all saw it clearly. Once you see it, reading a “partisan” publication is a joke.

    They jerk off to the giant death numbers…”ohhhh 60,000,000 dead I’m COMING! Oh GOD CANNIBALISM IN THE UKRAINE, this is better than auto-erotic asphyxiation!” I only read all those books because they’re homicidally fascinating, in every anecdote, but the Soviet atrocity number is, in actuality, about 10,000,000 dead, I think, and that’s from reading a bunch of books that start off with “60,000,000 dead!” deathporn garbage.

  • 58. Jack Boot  |  July 15th, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Firstly: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a neocon.

    Secondly: Until Operation Barbarossa, Stalin was Adolf’s loyal ally; cheerfully supplying the Reich with all manner of cut-price raw materials.
    As June, 1941 approached, Stalin willfully ignored multiple warnings from Churchill, his own spies and defecting German soldiers; a few simple preparations would have vastly reduced the carnage, but nooo…
    Russia won the war not because of Stalin, but in spite of him.

    Thirdly: 60 million seems a bit high, but 10 million is likely too low. Who knows? In the absence of hard data concerning the Soviet body count, people pick a number that supports their own biases. Those who are sympathetic to the Soviet project count low; those who are not count high.
    As far as I’m concerned, any ideology with an eight-figure death toll has automatically discredited itself.
    Indeed, what is the Soviet Empire’s legacy?
    The AK-47, spectacular pollution and mass graves – whether they hold 10 million or 60 million victims, there are too many of them…

  • 59. kgbproud  |  July 15th, 2009 at 11:18 am

    @jackboot-56
    The MVD/NKVD/KGB archives, as well as those of the Red Army and the national and republic politburos, have been released to a far, far greater degree of detail than anything you may be able to get here through the Freedom of Information Act. Igor Pykhalov and Alexander Diukov annotate their “World War 2 Defamed” series very extensively with references to these archives. So far, the books are only available in russian, but I wonder if someone of your inclinations would ever bother reading them even when they come out in english. These archives list combat deaths, wounded, sickness, deportations, and executions by nationality, regions, republics, campaigns in extensive tables. The roughly 25 million dead the Soviets claimed, can be readily verified therein. The archives are quite intact and since most Russians, especially the commie type, regard them with almost religious reverence I very much doubt that there ever was any shredding or burning going on

  • 60. Jack Boot  |  July 16th, 2009 at 6:06 am

    Combat deaths, regrettable though they may be, are not in the same league as the cold-blooded murder of innocents.

    In any case, were it not for Stalin’s criminal stupidity (Red Army purges, ignoring warnings, etc), Russia could have defeated the Reich without such appalling losses.

  • 61. evad  |  July 16th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    “The South, as Brecher mentions in passing, was aiming for a Carribean slave empire which might have become too big and important enough (especially as a balance to the USA) to be ignored and isolated.”

    And how was the CSA supposed to acquire this Carribean slave empire? Ask nicely, pretty please, for the USN and RN to let them invade Cuba, Mexico, Central America, Haiti, Dominica, Puerto Rico, etc?

    The British RN had spent a good part of the 19th century suppressing the slave trade, as had the USN. You seriously think the USA and Britain would have allowed the CSA to acquire more territory, anywhere, to expand their slave plantation system?

    Think about that seriously for a moment. This “the South had to be defeated to end slavery” nonsense meme has gone on long enough. It’s complete and utter bullshit.

    The Golden Triangle wasn’t going to happen post 1860; the only way a Southern slave empire was going to be built in the Caribbean was if the USA had annexed Mexico in 1848; but that was never going to happen due to American internal political divisions over the slavery question.

    An independent CSA would have been spending the first several generations after independence trying to play catch up with the North, industrializing, trying to create a modern economy.

    The last thing they would have needed was the impediment of slavery slowing down their modernization and alienating them from Britain, the world’s top industrial power whose goodwill would have been absolutely essential to Southern independence and economic development, if for no other reason than to use British goodwill as a means to keep the North at bay.

    An independent South would have freed its slaves, and exploited the labor of their freed slaves in some other fashion, which is what happened anyway. Which, come to think of it, is precisely what happened in every other ex-slave state in the Americas; and they did it without a bloody civil war.

  • 62. evad  |  July 16th, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Correction: that should read “Golden Circle” not “Golden Triangle”.

  • 63. evad  |  July 16th, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    “The archives are quite intact and since most Russians, especially the commie type, regard them with almost religious reverence I very much doubt that there ever was any shredding or burning going on”

    This doesn’t even pass the laugh test.

  • 64. kgbproud  |  July 16th, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    @60 I’ve offered documentation that says otherwise, ie Stalin’s “criminal stupidity” wasn’t.
    The purges were called for, of much smaller scale than to “paralyse” an army; Tukhachevsky and Trotsky, the ranking culprits in the Red Army’s backwardness should have been removed much earlier. Warnings were not ignored – but there was little the USSR could do to counter Germany’s movements other than diplomacy. The Army’s retraining and rearming according to then modern standards could not be accomplished before 1942. (see Jhukov’s, Khrushchev’s memoirs). Even so, Soviets fought the Germans far more effectively than anyone up to that point, including Churchill with his sham “Battle of Britain”. However, until an effective counterstrategies and armaments would be available, in 1942 as they already knew beforehand, the Red Army remained at a severe disadvantage in armoured and airial warfare to the Axis. (Also see “Memoirs of a jewish red army soldier” Gabriel Temkin) Care to provide some real evidence to the contrary ? Robert Conquest, Solzhenitsyn and the Vlasov’s accolytes are not acceptable, btw

  • 65. rick  |  July 16th, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Please give me the fresh corpse data! Did you think I was reading accounts of atrocities for world peace!? I love huge death tolls, but the motherfuckers failed to convince me. I’m reading wonderful death porn that fails to deliver the nihilistocidal shit I want, from a historical narrative. I’d love to read a real Soviet corpse listing…but I seriously doubt anybody can provide it, especially you. Account for the 30,000,000 corpses. Once again, I see 10-12 million. Probably less.

    And every asshole who says Stalin crippled his military by purging the generals is an idiot. What happened to the French generals? Yeah, Stalin might have killed some competent military leaders, but no military force was able to stand up to the Wehrmacht. And Zhukov finally did raise to dominance, by telling Stalin to shoot him, outright. That’s some horrible, glorious shit. You could fight the Wehrmacht, if you had balls bigger than any of us can conceive. The threat of horrible death helped those balls bulge. But don’t be stupid…Britain and the US had no chance of penetrating mainland Europe.

  • 66. kgbproud  |  July 17th, 2009 at 12:06 am

    @60 The casualty figure I cite is a military and civilian. Can you present some evidence of “cold-blooded murder of innocents” on the type of scale I believe you are thinking about? It’s also time to stop labeling Stalin a criminal, least of all, stupid. He had keen grasp of European politics esp. visavis the Soviet Union post Civil War, and it was he who saw through the rising facist threat enough to offer an alliance to the Entente. We know what happened next. He likewise foresaw the military capabilities of Germany and that the USSR was woefully unprepared for these new tactics despite its numeric superiority. The Red Army under Tukhachevsky had front row seats during the surreptitious German rearming during the early 30s since the German conducted the training of their first armored and air-borne divisions on the territory of the USSR to avoid detection by the Entente. But instead of heading this clarion call, Tukhachevsky maintained his faith in horse cavalry and gigantic tank-battleships. It was this unwieldy technology that cost the SU so dearly in 1941.
    By the time the CPSU wrenched the Red Army out of its ossified doctrines the Soviet Union lost too much time and no amount of diplomatic floundering about would make up for it. Hence, all that intelligence of the upcoming invasion was of little value. I’d say this guy and his lieutenants got what they deserved. None the less the Red Army would put up the most effective resistance that the Germans had yet seen and by the next year would already solve these tactical problems while British were still being kicked around all over Africa by a couple of light divisions. As far as appalling losses go, well that’s the level of war that the Americans and Brits avoided, sitting behind the Channel drinking warm beer until Germany was already finished; 80% of her 14 million casualties where on the Eastern Front.

    Some of my sources for this are;
    Great Patriotic War, Book of Losses without secrets (RU)
    Memoirs of a Jewish Red Army Soldier – Gabriel Temkin (EN)
    Memoirs, Khurshchev, Zhukov and other russian commanders (EN)

  • 67. Epicman  |  July 18th, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Wow, this thread has devolved into how evil the Soviets were. Kinda sad. Soviet military losses were 7 to 12 million. Soviet civilian losses were twice that number. Hitler killed more civilians then Stalin. As for using civilians as tools of warfare, the British did that in the Boer War quite well. When their army couldn’t do jack shit to the Boers, the British used thier battleships capture a coastal city, and subjected the population to what would today be called devastating war crimes, until the Boers surrendered.

    How about the millions of Indians that the British famine slaughtered? How about giving Smallpox Blankets to Native Americans? How about re-introducing the caste system in India? And for what? To make a lot of money.

    How about the British handing over Czeckoslovakia to Nazi Germany? How about Chamberlain’s comment that “we hope that Communism and Nazism shall annihilate each other”? Annihilate! That means kill hundreds of millions of people! The British didn’t give a shit.

    And here they are, talking about collectivisation. Seriously, what the fuck? Stalin came nowhere near Hitler in terms of civillians killed. Hitler killed at least 14 million Soviet Civilians. And did it willingly.

    Yes, Stalin erred in purging the army, the gulags, the collectivisation, but all those combined don’t come anywhere close to Nazi or British crimes. And to all those yelling “why aren’t KGB archives opened!” Well British archives haven’t been opened after the year 1800. That’s 208 years ago. What could be so devastating that the British still cannot admit their actions?

    Not to mention that Stalin allied with Hitler after he was rejected by Britain. So spare me the bullshit. And if the British had their war, Hitler would be facing the Tsarist Army. If that’s the case, then Nazis would have rolled past Moscow. Soviet Casualties would be triple what they are now.

    As for the casualties fairy tale, here’s the answer: 80% of Nazi casualties = 4.4 million. Soviet military casualties = 9.5 million (average of 7 mil to 12 mil) That’s roughly a 2:1 casualty rate. So it appears that every time a Nazi shot two Soviet peasants plowing the field, he also shot his one of his buddies. Or it could be that the Red Army actually fought back.

    A casualty rate of 2:1 against Nazis, was rather difficult to achieve in Europe, at least until Nazi offensive power was destroyed in the Battle of Kursk. Shall I mention the Miracle of Dunkirk, aka British running pants, or exuse me, trousers down, like madmen? Save it for the more ignorant people who don’t read this side, and prefer Anne Coulter instead.

  • 68. Ihatefatsohistorians  |  July 19th, 2009 at 6:44 am

    “-Europeans still don’t understand that either of those armies could have marched unstoppable from Liverpool to Moscow, a red-white-n-blue knife through moldy Euro-butter.”

    mmmm I don’t know doc. The French Old Guard, Prussian Grenadiers, Janissary Corps, etc.?? When did US ever win a war anywhere outside of North America unless it went with someone else??

  • 69. Jack the Texan  |  July 19th, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Love your stuff – don’t always agree (esp about Realism in Art), but I do love it. I also wanna mention the other fine fine battle of July 4th 1863, the seige of Vicksburg, where my fine namesake and great great grandfather, Major John McNally lost his brother, Capt Francis McNally, defending the fine port of VIcksburg from the scurrilous yankees.

    My dad used to laugh every forth of July, saying as a small child in Mississippi in the late 40s they STILL didn’t celebrate the 4th of July. Well would you wanna celebrate the day your incipient nation went a-crumbling into dust?

  • 70. jack  |  July 19th, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Good to see the real war nerd back in action and not that whingey cunter from the last few articles.

    ALL hail the war nerd!

  • 71. grigori  |  July 22nd, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I wonder what our ancestors would have made of the art I saw recently at the Art Institute in San Francisco. A young man, 18 going on 14 or 15, took pictures of himself naked with a clear tube from his mouth to his anus. He called it “Ourobouros”. Real statement, that.

    Liked the article.

  • 72. Technomad  |  July 23rd, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Try alibris.com or abebooks.com if you can remember the books’ titles, and you should be able to find who painted those paintings. Then Google the artist’s name and “Gettysburg painting.”

  • 73. RedBastardGod  |  July 23rd, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Meade’s plan was to set up a defensive front along Pipe Creek in north central Maryland, placing the AOTP between the ANV and Baltimore and Washington. In fact, he had given orders to that effect as the lead elements of Heth’s Division came strolling down Cashtown Pike. But one thing leads to another and you end up with the greatest battle in the Western Hemisphere.

    http://www.civilwarhome.com/pcl.htm (scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the picture tour link to get an idea of the selected ground)

    It’s very plausable that Lee with his extended and vulnerable supply line would eventually have to confront Meade on Meade’s terms, not the other way around as so many neo-confederates prattle on about.

  • 74. Epicman  |  July 24th, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Lee could always have retreated back into Virginia. It was the Union that was preventing the Confederacy from seceding, not the other way around.

    Also, I don’t know how much truth there is to this, but I heard that if Gray Davis stuck with Johnson, instead of replacing Johnson with Hood, who rashly attacked, that Johnson might have worn out the Union Army, and Union morale, prior to Lincoln’s re-election, and then McChicken, err McClellan would have won, and McDonald’s would launch the McChicken hamburger line. Is there truth to this?

  • 75. Azr@el  |  July 24th, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    The south’s only hope of seceding from the union lay in a protracted morale draining guerrilla war a la the revolutionary war. Tecumseh’s march to the sea convinced Southern leaders and citizens alike that whilst they’d play a game of bushwhack the bluecoats in the swamps and glens, the Union army would transform the South into the largest brothel the world had ever known…and use their homes as kindling to toss the largest BBQ to boot. Something about ex-slaves getting to have sloppy seconds with their wives and daughters after the Union boys had their fill may also have figured into the Southern calculus for capitulation. If anyone is interested there are some lovely letters from the civil war describing in the most beatiful prose how it feels to have a train run on you by those “Yankee Devils”.

  • 76. kumiho  |  July 29th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    some great epic paintings are in Hungarian and polish museums

  • 77. JS  |  July 29th, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Nice article. For the next one Gary, how about wading into that classic debate over who was a better general, Grant or Lee?

  • 78. dogbane  |  July 31st, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I sure would like to see your take on Nigeria at the moment, Mr. Brecher. I look forward to your next blog.

  • 79. rob adams  |  July 31st, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Being a 50’s kid from the deep South i am beneath all the layers of academically applied conscience, still unreconstructed in some ways. We have my great great grandfather’s diary – he was with the Texas Brigade, Capt John Selman Company E; wounded at the Peach Orchard. Took my kids there. Goddamn what a place. they of course had no idea what was going on, but they proved useful as props. At Devils Den i made them play dead and got a pretty cute shot of them beyond the original Brady photograph on the display plaque at the site. We stood where Capt Selman stood before the Texas Brigade jumped off to push the Yankees back up to Little Round Top. I’ll never forget it, nor will i ever forgive Lee for being so braindead just because it seems he crossed the Mason Dixon Line. Goddammit it we should’a won!

  • 80. jerome  |  August 6th, 2009 at 6:29 am

    America invading Europe with some success is plausible. The Brits watched the way the Americans fought in the 1860s and just kind of went “awww that’s cute, but you’re doing it wrong”, even though the US Civil War was the first warning light for World War One. Trenches outside Virginia’s capitol should have been a wake up call to what the future held for long range weaponry and mass infantry on open terrain, but did the arrogant Europeans listen? Nope.
    If the Americans got to the White cliffs of Dover and dug in, the Brits wouldn’t have a single military age male alive between the beaches and london by the end of the first month.
    Well that’s a bit of hyperbole but my point is, the Europeans would have gotten a rude awakening.

  • 81. Sam  |  August 7th, 2009 at 9:39 am

    I can’t find the painting he talks about but I’d like to see it. Can anybody? Thanks!

  • 82. Robert Sneddon  |  August 19th, 2009 at 1:19 am

    I liked Pratchett’s comment about war artists… (paraphrasing) “Technically very inspiring but they never seemed to be able to paint intestines”.

  • 83. Phoenix Woman  |  August 30th, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Gettysburg is my favorite for the simple reason that the First Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers showed everyone how it was done — and took Russian-style casualty figures doing it, whilst facing an enemy five times their size.

    Take the First Minnesota, along with the Iron Brigade of Wisconsin and later Indiana and Michigan regiments, on a tour of 1860s Europe: Now that’d be an interesting book. Or video game.

  • 84. Charlie  |  December 3rd, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Um, Sherman WAS at Shiloh. His division was driven back in the initial assault but regrouped and held their ground.

  • 85. Phoenix Woman  |  June 27th, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    By the way, to all the Neo-Confederates saying that the South would have freed its slaves eventually:

    Um, no. Slavery was embedded in the very Constitution of the Confederate States of America. As Nathan Bedford Forrest himself told a Southern lady talking about States’ Rights and all the other alleged hoo-ha for firing on Fort Sumter, “Madam, if this war isn’t being fought to preserve slavery then I don’t know what it’s about.”

    One of the funnier examples of conservatives trying to rewrite history to eliminate racial guilt is the “Black Confederates” nonsense of the past two decades.

    There are many different debunking links to choose from — some of which cite actual Confederate congressional records, presidential proclamations (in this proclamation, ironically dated as of Christmas Eve of 1862, Jefferson Davis authorizes the summary execution of any Union white officers found leading black troops, along with the execution or enslavement of said troops) and editorials from Southern newspapers showing the extreme and heated resistance of Southerners to the very idea of blacks fighting alongside rebel soldiers. But in fairness I thought I would focus on that very rare thing, an honest conservative over at Free Republic, who has worked to debunk the myth.

    This honest Freeper, citing both Confederate congressional records and the June 1915 issue of the original Confederate Veteran (which was published from 1893 to 1932), in which several veterans wrote in to debunk the first embryonic stirrings of this myth, which had appeared in previous issues of the magazine. (These are the issues which the myth promoters cite whilst ignoring the June 1915 one.)

  • 86. Zhukov  |  June 19th, 2016 at 1:46 am

    Hello,

    if you like war art, then certainly you will be interested in my war paintings collection, covers all eras from Ancients to post WWII conflicts, but the ones from the American Civil War are in my main gallery here

    http://pinturasdeguerra.tumblr.com/


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