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Do We Still Have Grants and Shermans?
Prime ^ | May 22, 2008 | Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on 05/22/2008 3:03:45 AM PDT by moderatewolverine

Who becomes a general — and why — tells us a lot about whether our military is on the right or wrong track. The annual spring list of Army colonels promoted to brigadier generals will be shortly released. Already, rumors suggest that this year, unlike in the recent past, a number of maverick officers who have distinguished themselves fighting — and usually defeating — insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq will be chosen.

For example, scholar-soldier Col. H. R. McMaster, Special Forces Col. Ken Tovo, and Col. Sean MacFarland — all of whom helped turn Sunni insurgents into allies — could, and should, make the cut.

These three colonels have had decorated careers in Iraq mastering the complexities of working with Iraqi forces in hunting down terrorists and insurgents. And they — like David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq — in the past have not always reflected the Army establishment in Washington. Their unconventional views about counterinsurgency warfare do not hinge on high-tech weaponry, tanks, artillery, and rapid massed advance.

But most wars are rarely fought as planned. During the fighting, those who adjust most quickly to the unexpected tend to be successful. And in almost all of America’s past conflicts, our top commanders on the eve of war were not those who finished it.

(Excerpt) Read more at primetimepolitics.com ...


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: army; iraq; mcmaster; military; oif; praise; seanmacfarland; tovo; vdh; victordavishanson; war; wot
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1 posted on 05/22/2008 3:03:46 AM PDT by moderatewolverine
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To: moderatewolverine

McMaster has already been passed over once, so if he makes the cut, that will be a good sign IMHO. There’s been some grumbling about SF officers being shortchanged in favor of Big Army types at promotion time, too.


2 posted on 05/22/2008 3:17:14 AM PDT by kms61
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To: moderatewolverine

We should be so lucky. I certainly hope we do.


3 posted on 05/22/2008 3:25:27 AM PDT by NucSubs (Cognitive dissonance: Conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between beliefs and actions)
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To: moderatewolverine

Any Grant or Sherman will retire at 0-5 or 0-6 after being passed over, or, if they stay in, will be put in charge of the daycare benefit for unwed mothers.


4 posted on 05/22/2008 3:30:29 AM PDT by Jim Noble (May 17 was my Tenth Anniversary on FR)
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To: moderatewolverine

Victor Davis Hanson is a national treasure. We need to find some way to download his brain.


5 posted on 05/22/2008 3:30:34 AM PDT by NucSubs (Cognitive dissonance: Conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between beliefs and actions)
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To: moderatewolverine

A good article, thanks for posting it. I do hope those who have engineered the successes in Iraq and Afghanistan are well rewarded for their efforts. They do deserve it. Thanks to VDH for bringing this to light.


6 posted on 05/22/2008 3:36:36 AM PDT by SueRae
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To: NucSubs

No. And even if we did, the politicians would muzzle them and the media would.....well, you get my drift.


7 posted on 05/22/2008 4:03:44 AM PDT by MrLee (Sha'alu Shalom Yerushalyim!! God bless Eretz Israel.)
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To: kms61

I apologize for the following long post in advance:

VDH is indeed a National treasure, but he, like most journalists and others who use HR as an example of some perceived fight within the ranks of GOs between warfighting GOs and Pentagon bureaucrats, has this one completely wrong.

Neither HR nor Sean was passed over for being a maverick by the “Pentagon-types”. I have no love of bureaucrats in the Pentagon, but HR and Sean’s challenges with making GO lay elsewhere, and in fact their work in Iraq is what will likely get both of them on this next list.

I am a close friend of both HR and Sean, and we have served many times together since our LT days. I believe HR has been passed over twice. There are some other issues involved with HR that got him on the wrong side of many GOs (all whom are also Iraqi vets) but these issues have nothing to do with his success in Iraq. He also spent five years away at West Point (with me, so I am not insulting him for it) getting an Advanced Degree and teaching. The last one, which used to be a major plus, has in recent years been a kiss of death on Boards (mistakingly in my opinion).

Sean is a case of a late bloomer. Rightly or wrongly, by the time he made LTC his “paperwork” was not as strong as many of his contemporaries. We both then went to work for GEN Tommy Franks some years back, and GEN Franks saw his outstanding potential and literally saved his career (as he should have). Sean was not going to get a battalion most likely, but GEN Franks wrote great OERs on him and then lined him up to be GEN Shinseki’s aide. Since then he has continued to shine. I am thrilled, because I believe he is tremendous strategic thinker.

Anyway, I do hope they are both on this upcoming GO list. But it will not signify a great shift in the thinking of Boards or anything else, which is what we will all read in the coming months. It will just be a case where their strong performances finally overcame a couple of their earlier ‘perceived’ weaknesses. I hate the Army promotion system, but in this case it probably will get it right.

I will also be thrilled because they are both Armor/Cavalry officers, and in the last couple of years Armor has been taking it on the chin in boards with respect to the Infantry. I have nothing against the Infantry, but we are not promoting or giving Brigade Commands to many Field Artillery or Armor officers these days (we are all waiting to see what happens with Battalion Command Boards), and we are in danger of becoming myopically focused if we are not careful. Each of these three branches brings a unique viewpoint to the fight, and we need all three to remain viable in the future.

One man’s opinion anyway.


8 posted on 05/22/2008 4:19:44 AM PDT by Proud Legions
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To: moderatewolverine
“If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world but I am sure we would be getting reports from hell before breakfast.”

William Tecumseh Sherman was wonderfully quotable!!
9 posted on 05/22/2008 4:20:27 AM PDT by kb2614 (Hell hath no fury than a bureaucrat scorned)
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To: Proud Legions

Very interesting. Thank you for your insight.


10 posted on 05/22/2008 4:21:56 AM PDT by kms61
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To: moderatewolverine
Neither Grant nor Sherman would have had distinguished careers if not for the war, they certainly would have never made General.

On the other hand Lee was the direct result of the Army at the time. That said, most of the good senior officers at the beginning of the war were southerners.

11 posted on 05/22/2008 4:23:39 AM PDT by SampleMan (We are a free and industrious people, socialist nannies do not become us.)
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To: moderatewolverine

After the first day of battle at Shiloh the Union forces were pushed back to the banks of the Tennessee River. One of Grant’s generals, possibly Sherman, commented to general Grant, “They sure whooped us today”. Grant replied, “We’ll get ‘em tomorrow.”

I’m not telling what happened on that “tomorrow”, you all should already know.

General Grant was different than others, he was willing to keep ordering his men into battle, even after thousands of deaths and maiming injuries, he kept pushing them forward at the enemy. He was called “The Butcher”. Cold Harbor. General Grant saved the Union of the States.


12 posted on 05/22/2008 4:24:20 AM PDT by reaganator
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To: Proud Legions

Wow. Thank you to you and your friends for saving western civilization.


13 posted on 05/22/2008 4:40:57 AM PDT by Buckhead
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To: moderatewolverine
The Korean War is a good example of top generals and leaders not being the type of leaders we needed to fight a war. And this was only five years after WWII when we had some of the fightenist generals in history. Too many officers who worked on general staffs during WWII and had very little combat experience above battalion or regimental level. Too many officers that were too old to lead combat troops at the division or lower level. Too many political officers chosen for command because they were someone's favorites. It wasn't until they were weeded out that we started pushing the N. Koreans back into N. Korea.
14 posted on 05/22/2008 4:42:19 AM PDT by Americanexpat
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To: SampleMan

“That said, most of the good senior officers at the beginning of the war were southerners.”

and most of those were made in the Mexican War, including Lee who was probably on the way out. He was just an aging Captain engineer building forts before the Mexican War. He had been passed over many times.


15 posted on 05/22/2008 5:08:05 AM PDT by neb52
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To: MrLee

Well, as Sherman knew, there is nothing NEW about the media’s treachery and mendacity.


16 posted on 05/22/2008 5:12:53 AM PDT by NucSubs (Cognitive dissonance: Conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between beliefs and actions)
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To: reaganator
To some extent it was function of his nature. Grant was a very stoic, plug ahead guy, of high intelligence. The Southern Generals are seen very romantically, as they saw themselves too. However their tactical and personal brilliance, they were strategically, and even politically, blind. The north basically raised an almost Soviet size and quality Army and got down to dirty business and crushed the south.

The Southern strategy was very much like Hitler's. Gamble with an insufficient population and material base, and hope you can win quickly.

17 posted on 05/22/2008 5:55:00 AM PDT by Leisler
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To: reaganator
General Grant was different than others, he was willing to keep ordering his men into battle, even after thousands of deaths and maiming injuries, he kept pushing them forward at the enemy. He was called “The Butcher”.

He is called a butcher and yet while Grant commanded army-sized units longer than Lee did, Lee had more of his men killed and wounded under his command then Grant did. Lee has the better PR I guess.

18 posted on 05/22/2008 6:00:04 AM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: Americanexpat
I can only remember the jist, but Marshall went to Roosevelt at the beginning of WWII, but a few years before we entered, and said that although fine men, he need to cashier half of the 0-5’s and up. Roosevelt gave him permission. Even with this the Army still had too many ‘old’ guys.

German reviews of American leadership gave good marks to small unit leaders and to high Generals but was very critical of the quality of division level officers.

19 posted on 05/22/2008 6:01:02 AM PDT by Leisler
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To: NucSubs
Well, as Sherman knew, there is nothing NEW about the media’s treachery and mendacity

"If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast." - William T. Sherman

20 posted on 05/22/2008 6:03:11 AM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: moderatewolverine

Just because mssers McMaster, Tovo, and MacFarland have not yet been selected does not mean there are not those out there who are selected.

VDH is obviously lobbying for some soldier-scholar compatriots.


21 posted on 05/22/2008 6:03:24 AM PDT by PurpleMan
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To: moderatewolverine

We do but very few of the competent officers are willing to put up with the ass kissing politics and backstabbing that it usually takes to attain star ranks.

Grant was a disgraced captain at the start of the war and the political generals and politicians did their best to keep Grant and Sherman out of the army and command. It took a war to eventually move them to a position where they could make a difference. Generals like McClelland (the McArthur of his time) prolonged the war and caused more troops to die while keeping leaders like Grant and Sherman out.

It has only become worse in modern times.


22 posted on 05/22/2008 7:16:03 AM PDT by RJS1950 (The democrats are the "enemies foreign and domestic" cited in the federal oath)
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To: Proud Legions
Thanks for the insight. It's appreciated.

Nam Vet

23 posted on 05/22/2008 7:18:22 AM PDT by Nam Vet ("Erin Go Bragh", declares Democrat hopeful Barry Finnegan O'Bama)
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To: moderatewolverine

We have them....but the wars they fight in are too different to compare. If you send a general on a Sherman march In Iraq, every soldier under him would be brought up on war crime charges and found guilty. Much like in the movie The Patriot, when wars are fought with hand tying rules, it’s the ones with their hands tied that suffer the most.


24 posted on 05/22/2008 7:19:00 AM PDT by Wavrnr10
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To: reaganator

“General Grant was different than others, he was willing to keep ordering his men into battle, even after thousands of deaths and maiming injuries, he kept pushing them forward at the enemy.”

Grant knew that he had a much larger base of men and material than Lee, thus he was not averse to using them. I think it was Shelby Foote who said that the North fought the war with just one hand.


25 posted on 05/22/2008 7:32:09 AM PDT by PLMerite ("Unarmed, one can only flee from Evil. But Evil isn't overcome by fleeing from it." Jeff Cooper)
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To: neb52
He was just an aging Captain engineer building forts before the Mexican War. He had been passed over many times.

Excellent point.

26 posted on 05/22/2008 8:18:38 AM PDT by SampleMan (We are a free and industrious people, socialist nannies do not become us.)
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To: neb52
With rare exception, the Generals you have at the beginning of a war are average at best. Naval Admirals appear to be an exception, but I wouldn't argue that is still the case.

The only way to find the best leaders is to fire the bad ones and only stop when you get a good one. Beyond battle field success, mankind does not appear to have ever been able to devise a system that consistently produced master leadership.

Frankly, I think the real warriors get bored to tears during peace time and perform mediocre in what they consider to be unimportant tasks. They aren't necessarily winners in other fields or peace time drudgery, but when it comes to battle their eyes light up and they feel their calling. Certainly that's been my observation.

27 posted on 05/22/2008 8:26:55 AM PDT by SampleMan (We are a free and industrious people, socialist nannies do not become us.)
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To: moderatewolverine; Tolik

bump & a ping


28 posted on 05/22/2008 9:16:02 AM PDT by neverdem (I'm praying for a Divine Intervention.)
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To: Proud Legions

Thank you for the info and insights - that is very helpful to all of us who are trying to evaluate VDH’s column.


29 posted on 05/22/2008 12:40:15 PM PDT by Enchante (Barack Chamberlain: My 1930s Appeasement Policy Goes Well With My 1960s Socialist Policies!)
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To: reaganator; Non-Sequitur

I know someone who is a big Civil War buff (I’m not particularly) who argues that Grant has gotten a really unfair rap on the “butcher” charge and that when you analyze all of the battles and casualty figures as percentages, etc. that Grant comes off just as well (maybe badly, depending upon your views) as Lee, a bit better in fact, and that Lee has simply enjoyed better PR.

Anyone know where to find that argument or the relevant stats? I know I’ve seen it before in an email years ago, I’ll try to find out more.....


30 posted on 05/22/2008 12:52:29 PM PDT by Enchante (Barack Chamberlain: My 1930s Appeasement Policy Goes Well With My 1960s Socialist Policies!)
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To: moderatewolverine

Both Grant and Sherman were fighting during a period of technical change in warfare.

They fought like their muskets had an effective range of 100 yards.

Their muskets and mini-balls actually had an effective range of 200-300 yards.

This combination led to wholesale slaughter that can only be attributed (in 20/20 hindsight) to both sides military leaders failure to recognize that war had changed.

Grant deserves to be called a butcher. He just had more cannon fodder then Lee and a willingness to ‘spend it’.

Lee on the other hand doesn’t deserve the praise he gets. Granting he was tactically a genius that doesn’t give him a pass on his lack of insight into the effective range issue. He could have blitzed Washington DC.


31 posted on 05/22/2008 12:54:19 PM PDT by Dinsdale
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To: moderatewolverine

I am not one to disagree with VDH but he seems to give a hard time to Rosecrans. He was able to advance from Nashville to Chattanooga by continously outflanking the Confederate forces. Although I suppose that could be a negative since he did not physically destroy the Confederate army like Grant was eventually able to do with Lee. Of course Rosecrans deserved to be sacked after Chickamauga.


32 posted on 05/22/2008 1:00:02 PM PDT by C19fan
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To: Non-Sequitur
He is called a butcher and yet while Grant commanded army-sized units longer than Lee did, Lee had more of his men killed and wounded under his command then Grant did. Lee has the better PR I guess.

When you play a numbers game like Lee and Grant did, and your playing on the same ground using the same tactics, the guy with a lot more troops (and who is willing to expend them as needed) is going to kick your butt. As far as PR, the image of both men was cultivated during and immediately after the war - Lee was supposed to be the prim and proper Southern gentleman, Grant the pugnacious task master that tended to have a more blunt view of things.


33 posted on 05/22/2008 1:26:31 PM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: Wavrnr10
We have them....but the wars they fight in are too different to compare. If you send a general on a Sherman march In Iraq, every soldier under him would be brought up on war crime charges and found guilty.

Sherman proved in his writings both before the Civil War and after, that he understood warfare in a very unique way that few others do, and that has proven to be timeless - Hap Arnold and others in the US Army Air Forces were using Sherman's tactics against the Japanese.

He would have known how to deal with Ho Chi Minh. He would have felt at home in the first Gulf War in '91, or going after the Taliban in 2001.

If anything, he would have had an understanding of how to fight the Taliban and other radical groups that few of people do today - In his memoirs, he said:

My aim then was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." .

Just swap the word "rebel" with the word "Taliban".

Sherman not only understood the little picture and how to get into the head of the individual enemy soldiers they faced, but he understood the bigger picture as well - look at what he said in December of 1860 (before the war started):

You people of the South don't know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it… Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth—right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail
34 posted on 05/22/2008 1:34:39 PM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: Dinsdale
Lee on the other hand doesn’t deserve the praise he gets. Granting he was tactically a genius that doesn’t give him a pass on his lack of insight into the effective range issue. He could have blitzed Washington DC.

Lee blew it several times, but he was able to adjust his ways, although it was way too late and way too many of his men had to die before he did. What he started to do at the end of the war in regards to trench warfare would be seen again in France in the first World War. Unfortunately trench warfare itself is a horrible way to fight and die, but he was recognized for his contributions (and it was not due to any kind of tactical genius of his, but more to his engineering and analytical side).
35 posted on 05/22/2008 1:40:45 PM PDT by af_vet_rr
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To: Dinsdale

Oh, if you close your hippie eyes and really wish, someday there will be a war where nobody gets killed.


36 posted on 05/22/2008 3:15:01 PM PDT by Philly Nomad
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To: Proud Legions

Appreciate your comments and insight on the current state of the Army promotion system for the upper echelons. I have enjoyed the various appearances of HRM on History Channel, etc. and have found his commentary to be on target. It would be a shame if he were not to make flag rank for the exact reasons you and VDH have written.

I would like to know how HRM remains on AD if he has been passed over for O-7 twice — used to be two strikes and you were out. Has that changed?


37 posted on 05/22/2008 4:03:51 PM PDT by T-Bird45 (It feels like the seventies, and it shouldn't.)
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To: Proud Legions

Excellent analysis. IQ tests should count as much as PT tests. Too often its the guy who can run 10 miles, as opposed to the guy who can figure out how to get there without the effort, who gets the promotion.


38 posted on 05/22/2008 4:28:28 PM PDT by PsyOp (Truth in itself is rarely sufficient to make men act. - Clauswitz, On War, 1832.)
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To: moderatewolverine
Grant is still around!


39 posted on 05/22/2008 4:33:25 PM PDT by WVKayaker ( "Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome..." I. Asimov)
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To: Enchante
"Anyone know where to find that argument or the relevant stats?"

Check out these stats...

Civil War Battle Statistics

Note that at Gettysburg, where Lee was on offense, southern casualties were higher.

At, say, Cold Harbor, where Grant was on offense, northern casualties were much higher.

40 posted on 05/22/2008 6:34:51 PM PDT by BroJoeK (A little historical perspective....)
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To: T-Bird45

I don’t know if it used to be different many years ago, but during at least the recent past once you make Colonel you can stay in until 30 regardless of how many times you are passed over for General. Most 06s don’t make General as you know, and tend to stay in until at least 26 years (when the pay sort of maxes out).

I do believe he will make it this time. He came in the Army in 1984, so has 6 more years regardless. I believe Sean came in about 1982, but I could be off a year. I also believe he will make it.


41 posted on 05/22/2008 6:43:49 PM PDT by Proud Legions
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To: Enchante
We should also note: in a typical Civil War battle, each side lost more soldiers than the US has lost to date in all of Iraq.

And while we're at it, I recently had the opportunity to question the experts (Civil War park rangers) about civilian deaths. Typically there were few to none, with the total for the war less than 1,000.

In fact, the biggest single number of civilians who died happened during Sherman's march through Georgia, but it was not of white Georgians. It was freed slaves following Sherman's army, hundreds of whom drowned trying to cross a river where one of Sherman's generals had destroyed the bridge.

42 posted on 05/22/2008 6:43:53 PM PDT by BroJoeK (A little historical perspective....)
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To: moderatewolverine; neverdem; Lando Lincoln; quidnunc; .cnI redruM; SJackson; dennisw; ...


    Victor Davis Hanson Ping ! 

       Let me know if you want in or out.

Links:    FR Index of his articles:  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/keyword?k=victordavishanson
                His website: http://victorhanson.com/
                NRO archive: http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson-archive.asp
                Pajamasmedia:
   http://victordavishanson.pajamasmedia.com/

43 posted on 05/23/2008 6:50:23 AM PDT by Tolik
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To: SampleMan
On the other hand Lee was the direct result of the Army at the time. That said, most of the good senior officers at the beginning of the war were southerners.

Grant and Sherman were good, but Lee was in a class by himself.
44 posted on 05/23/2008 6:55:47 AM PDT by JamesP81 (George Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not a suggestion)
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To: neverdem; AdmSmith; Berosus; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Fred Nerks; ...
These three colonels have had decorated careers in Iraq mastering the complexities of working with Iraqi forces in hunting down terrorists and insurgents. And they -- like David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq -- in the past have not always reflected the Army establishment in Washington. Their unconventional views about counterinsurgency warfare do not hinge on high-tech weaponry, tanks, artillery, and rapid massed advance.
Thanks neverdem.
45 posted on 05/23/2008 6:57:18 AM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/_______________________Profile updated Monday, April 28, 2008)
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To: moderatewolverine

What about Robert E. Lee???


46 posted on 05/23/2008 6:58:41 AM PDT by cyborg (Living Strong every day since March 12, 2008)
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To: BroJoeK

For the Appomattox campaign, the chart shows 10,780 casualties for Grant; none for Lee. That’s obviously incorrect. Lee’s army suffered numbers of casualties from the time when the Petersburg defenses were evacuated to the surrender at Appomattox.


47 posted on 05/23/2008 7:05:36 AM PDT by bcsco (To heck with a third party. We need a second one....)
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I copied that chart to Excel and did some calculations.

Total casualties comes to 506,359.

Comparison of Grant/Sherman (which includes Thomas but not Sheridan) to their opponents: Grant/Sherman: 88,733; Opponents: 111,458.


48 posted on 05/23/2008 7:15:26 AM PDT by bcsco (To heck with a third party. We need a second one....)
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To: af_vet_rr
Lee's major failing, IMHO, was as a strategist. At the operational level, he had few peers, but as a senior general, whose advice was sought, and listened to, by one of the most difficult chief executives of any country in history [Davis]; his lack of strategic insight was mind boggling.

I don't know if he considered the Confederacy an appendage, or an ally of Virginia, but he doesn't seem to have seen it as a polity superior to his native state.

Case in point, the run up to the Gettysburg campaign. There were major discussions in Richmond about sending Lee and two Corps of his army to the West, which was the critical theater of operations in the Civil War, to help Bragg.
Lee did NOT want to go. So he proposed the raid into Pennsylvania in its stead. That is strategic myopia to the level of near blindness. And the South paid.

49 posted on 05/23/2008 7:20:43 AM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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To: WVKayaker

That’s Andrew Jackson.


50 posted on 05/23/2008 7:21:39 AM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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