Dutch Perspective on the American Civil War

The British, French, and Prussians sent observers to America to study the American Civil War - they were focused mainly on technology and tactics.  The war was soon overshadowed in European minds by the wars of 1866 and 1870.  In general the Dutch paid even less attention to the American Civil War, but in 1871 a "Lt. Jacques Arnould Obreen" wrote an over 600 page book on the war, "De Noord-Amerikaansche oorlog van 1861-1865", a book that came to some conclusions he believed were useful to the Dutch.  Being a relatively small country, the Dutch had to decide what sort of army it should use to defend itself.  Obreen argued in favor of a militia army, a relatively inexpensive option.   Daniel Meijers, a Dutch Civil War enthusiast who brought this book to my attention has this to say,

"Half the book is a general history military events during the war. A quarter was about technology and engineering of which lessons the Dutch military could learn, the rest was a description of the army of the Union with some commentary and analysis. It should be noted that there is less analysis on battles and tactics than on organization and fortifications. This is because the writer himself didn't find it very important, and I guess he served in the cavalry which is why he pays more detail to that.  Also I guess that he wrote about the things that, Dutch military mainly was interested in.  By 1871 the Netherlands maintained an official policy of neutrality. Its armed forces were mainly geared for maintaining that neutrality. When an enemy army invaded, it would try to delay the enemy as much as possible, in order to give time to 'inundation' ( setting large swaths of land under water) followed by a withdrawal behind its fortress line. An ally against the enemy would be sought out and together they would drive out the enemy out of the country. So lots of emphasis goes to fortifications and amphibious assaults because the navy was expected to defend the many water inlets and because a lot of those kind of operations were conducted in Indonesia. But in general, there was no real interest in the Civil War, and what most officers knew came from German or French military magazines.  Lieutenant Obreen only made a study out of the Civil War because his first subject, the Schleswig-Holstein War, was already taken. He put a lot of his own money into it and it is mainly based on English, French, and some American sources, but even he admits there was no interest for such a study."

Obreen became so fascinated with America that he immigrated to California and worked himself to death in pursuit of the American dream.

In Volume 38 of "de Militaire Spectator, "Captain A. Pompe" reviewed Obreens' book, concluding that a well funded professional army is a better option and that Union victory would have come much sooner if the United States had spent more money on a larger pre-war army.  

Many thanks to Daniel Meijers for providing a translated version of the book review, of Obreen's response, and a portion of Obreen's book.

Militaire Spectator 1871 - Pompe Reviews Obreen's Book

Everyone can fight.  Why wouldn't every nation be able to wage war? Fighting!  What is war but the use of brute force and raw strength?  As long as a man possesses two arms and some sturdy knuckles and feet, he can defend himself or even attack. Give him a stick, a baton, he will make himself known. But with a sword or firearm it makes him so strong he can make hundreds of unarmed men do his bidding.  Wouldn’t this be the same with the people of a nation? Call up the men who have enough bodily strength and arm them!  And there you’ll have your army, powerful enough to force the will of the government on anyone who refuses to listen. If the spirit of a nation in it’s hour of peril makes itself felt, an army will rise in its steps.  In this century of technical science, everything is ready made to wage war, so we are able to crush the enemy in just a handful of battles. Who needs soldiers in peacetime? What use are all those mercenary and militia armies?  Why waste so many resources and time with pointless training and exercises? So much money is being wasted in bottomless pits of war-budgets!  Who needs all these senseless parades with spit and polish armies and their dangerous men, which a power hungry government can abuse to retard all the free development of the individual and the state. Away with every army, and long live the field-guards and police officers!  Long live the productive labour, long live the science, the art and every free development on every subject - and above all, long live agriculture, industry and trade!

Is North-America not a prosperous country? Not long a go, all those deep held beliefs were made reality. And even after a vicious war those beliefs still remain standing. That country with a population of over just 31 million souls, only maintained before the war of 1861 an army of 17,000 soldiers, and after 1865 it’s army consists between 40 or 50,000 men. That while France with 36 million souls in peacetime maintains a force of over 300,000 men. Does this make the United States of America matter less in the political sphere? Is there less safety in that country? Is the chance of revolt or war bigger over there? If that is not the case; then how is it so that Europe with it’s thousands of people under arms and which spends millions in war-material; is so different from the USA who doesn’t have a reputable army or a large war fleet? Apparently the USA is very capable of maintaining peace or safety, without a giant war machine.

Everyday one hears in the press, and in national assemblies making the above arguments on the spending of money on war-budgets. And indeed  a superficial glance; at the military differences between the USA and European nations, one can conclude that Europe is treading the wrong path. While the USA with its national prosperity and peace found the true one. Therefore Europe only has to follow the example set by the USA in order to achieve those same goals. However if one digs deeper, one is easily able to discern how it was possible for the USA to get at such levels of wealth. Namely; the limited population which inhabits its gigantic landmass, made it possible for everyone who wanted to work hard to become prosperous, and enjoyed the liberty to do so. There is room and opportunity there to live, ‘life’ in it’s true sense, without hindering its neighbors or it’s fellow citizens. While in Europe the self-interest of individuals, classes and nations,  requires the defense of gained possessions and rights through violence. In the USA people actually need each other, and seek out each other, so they can through collective efforts achieve great things, which will bear the fruits for millions of inhabitants in later centuries. The same stretch of land in the USA that provides a living for over 1,500 people, only provides for 9,000 inhabitants in Belgium and 6,000 in the Netherlands. Even in Russia a piece of land that provides for 1,600 people is inhabited in the USA only by 250 inhabitants. Therefore why should the USA maintain a strong military force? By no neighbors threatened, and with a relatively low population, in obsession of uncultivated land and which still hides so many treasures, must and should this youthful nation develop without ever changing it’s policy of peace and non-interference? If in Europe it was possible to move a large portion of the population to get to the same equilibrium as the USA then surely Europe and the USA would look much more alike. Alas the Old World is characterized by much different principles than those of the USA. Hence European nations will forever require to conscript its growing population for the necessity of defense and their right to exist in front of it’s neighbors. When those  neighbors feel the need to expand on behalf of their citizens, for procurement for new sources of wealth, they will do so by military means.

After a quick glance on the USA, one comes quickly to the realization, that it’s national set of values would find far less fertile ground in the oh so different Europe. One concludes from this that there isn’t much to learn for a European public from the great events that brought turmoil to the oh so youthful USA. The US Civil War has something unique; and something very peculiar, which makes it different from all other wars thus far seen in Europe. The enormously large financial and technical resources that were deployed, by both opponents, was in stark contrast with the conduct of the war. One would look in vain for a similar military experience in the history of Europe of the last century. It even makes the disastrous campaigns of the allies in 1792 and 1793 look like masterpieces in strategy and tactics, in comparison to those led by general Grant in 1864. It is therefore that one learns best from the American Civil War on how NOT to fight war, instead of how one should.

For a military man as well as a politician, this particular war teaches the lesson that a well-formed army is the first requirement for fighting  a proper war! And that one comes well to the insight that more money is wasted, when the state maintains a faulty and untrained land and naval force. Another lesson to be learned is the fact that every intervention and interference by politicians in military affairs, lead to catastrophic results for all involved. If the American Civil War has created some interest in the European military audience, then it was mainly for the use of new weapons on land and on sea which came as a result of developments in engineering and industry. For example; the appearance of the first ‘Monitor’, large armored ships, the use of torpedoes and barricades, the use of large cannons, new developments in the construction of fortifications, the use of the so called ‘blockade-runners’ like the Alabama, the Florida, the Tallahassee etc. (which brought unheard losses to trade and the merchant fleet) and finally the revolution of naval warfare and the coöperation between land and maritime forces which brought masterful and glorious results in the capture of Confederate ports. Also of interest was transport of large military forces over sea and the method of coastal defenses. All those things about the war (the unimportant details) have attracted more attention than the different campaigns and series of notorious battles. If you take exception to the first battle of Bull Run, where the first army of the Union suffered its disgraceful defeat, then one notices; how little known the rest of the famous battles are. Such as the ‘army of the Potomac’ at the peninsula. Or even the later battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorville, and Gettysburg, where each side lost between 23 to 25,000 men. While not to speak of the bizarre fights and campaigns which were fought in the side theaters in the Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, Lousiana and Arkansas. How even less notorious is the great offensive plan of Grant and it’s most important operations, with which he defeated his famous opponent general Lee in 1864, at the same place where McClellan wanted to decide the war! Even the sieges of Petersburg and Richmond are undoubtedly less well known than the siege of Sevastopol and the now finishing siege of Paris. Sherman’s famous march in and through Georgia to Savannah, an impressive feat of arms, has barely been considered for study.  How many books in  the USA about certain era’s or events have been published! Yet our knowledge about the American Civil war seeps up only slowly through the military world. There are very few except for the work of lieutenant-colonel Ferdinand Le Comte of the Swiss general staff, who observed the war first hand at the Union headquarters, and whose ‘Guerre de la Secession’, published in Paris in 1866 and 1867, became a very important study. There is only the work of the Prussian Captain Constantin Sanders who published under the title of ‘Geschichte des vierjährigen Bürgerkrieges in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika’.

It is my pleasure to make notice, that even with the limited interest for the American Civil War, our officers study it mainly from English and American sources…. Under the title ‘de Noord-Amerikaansche oorlog van 1864 tot 1865’ 1st lieutenant of the infantry J.A. Obreen, whose work only recently saw the light of day has given us an eager and detailed study which adds to our knowledge of this curious civil war.  When it will be all those great wars in Austria, Italy, Southern-Germany and France which have been waged since 1866, which will get the attention of the public for years to come. Nevertheless it can be announced that through this study the bloodiest and most destructive war in this century will be kept in memory, and will be useful for those who want to further study this war……… ( skipping the minutiae about the book )

Another grievance of mine is that the writer after his introductory statement disinclines to give credit to the influence politics has forced itself upon the waging of the war. If there ever was a war in which political interference was this great; it probably never had gone as far as was the case in the American Civil war.  If one reads Sir Obreen’s statements about McClellan's campaign to the peninsula and the execution thereof, then one deduces from a military point a view that puts the famous American general in a very bad spotlight. But that figment of imagination disappears immediately if one gets a grasp of the nature of American politics, and if one comes to the discovery that Secretary of War Stanton for political gain obstructed the actions and plans of McClellan and did everything in his power to make them fail. The slow but exceptional gain to power by the abolitionist movement held a lot of influence on Lincoln and the government in Washington, and pushed for a change in the strategic goals that the government wanted to achieve. If one desires to get to an accurate  judgment on the military campaigns of the Civil War, then one should first of all get a grasp on the political-influence which determined its strategic goals….
A further study of the American Civil War for the large European public is recommended.  Especially because it warns on a great scale, the miss steps, which all too often also happen here in Europe.  Namely the false belief that small armies and untrained militias are sufficient - whether spread for malicious goals or is simply as the result of ignorance.  In more than case during the Civil War one can see what happens if politicians ignorant of the martial profession, interfere or draw up the plans for generals, which always leads to negative consequences. The war also shows that it is impossible for a war to be won in a very short time, without a disciplined, well trained professional army. In contrast to the statements of economists, the maintenance of such a force is not a waste of money, but a proper investment in the sense that it brings security for agriculture, industry and trade and prevents in times of war the destruction of property and helps minimize the loss of life.

There are several examples above about how the interferences of politicians in military matters never leads to positive results. When more light is given to the political affairs of Lincoln’s presidency, the more clear it will become why so many campaigns were lead in such retarded and incompetent ways. What were the true motivations of the North by replacing a dozen army commanders, whom were often treated in the most exceptional ways? Bound by the instructions of the government, the commanders remained depended on the political and military bureau in Washington, when finally in 1864 General Grant was able to get leeway and was made independent from that bureau. This enabled him to conduct operations over the whole theater of war.  With Grant’s appointment the Union armies were able with speed and strength to gain more positive results, which ended the Southern revolt in just one year. If McClellan had been given the same freedom of action and the full coöperation of Washington, then Richmond would have probably fallen three years earlier, and brought the war to an end with less bloodshed and less money wasted. Whatever the stature of Stanton during the Civil war may have been, it shall forever be known that his interference in command led to the unnecessary extension of the war and the sacrifice of thousands of lives and millions in spending. The Stanton’s, the Monroe’s, the Gambetta’s, were great speakers, great men, very skilled politicians. But when they stepped outside the political arena, they led themselves from an appetite for power into influence over the military. This only led to failure and catastrophe for the army and the people whom they represented.  Bismarck and von Moltke were independent, free from each other.  Each one only concentrated on his particular field, but supported and fully coöperated with the other, and not because of political party but instead fully inspired by patriotic feelings they helped bring their country to glory and prosperity.

Even more remarkably for the military man is to observe how the immense political decentralization and individual freedoms in the USA influenced the creation and training of its armies. If you compare the army of the Union in 1861 with that of 1864 and 1865, the difference is very surprising.  Instead of untrained, undisciplined, defective mobs with which the Union at first hoped to win so easily with, one encounters Grant’s armies, who concerning organization and trial had evolved to the level of European armies.  In regards to equipment and armaments; it even outdoes European armies. In bravery and endurance it has no faults, but in training and preparedness for war it would have been still very far beneath a French or German army. The American armies, especially the Union excels in armament, equipment and giving first-aid. In maneuverability they often fell short. Their cavalry never developed to an actual combat-arm. They were of good use as scouts or raiders, but on the battlefield they didn’t excel.  The action of the other arms remind one of the time of Frederick the Great, when each party sought to choose it’s deployments, wherein they make utmost use of defensive features. Above all skillful with the pick and shovel, American armies covered their encampments with all kinds of fortifications. A skirmish or a battle were conducted mainly as firefights, in which thousands of soldiers on both sides were mowed down by continuous fire. With heavy minds both parties sometimes convinced themselves to storm each others positions, whenever there was a slight chance to take over a section of the opposing lines. It is because of this that armies suffered heavily in casualties with many dead and wounded. Also contributing was the fact that battles took so long with some even taking two or three days, and the phenomenon that nowhere in the war a decisive battle was fought on the open field. The enormous losses in human life’s during the four years of war, testify of the toughness of the American race, but also its ingenuity in weaponry and fortifications.

The Civil war also forms precedent for recent developments in the field. Namely after the Franco-German war, one hears more from authorities that the unpleasant results of battles are mainly to be blamed on defective military-leadership, as if to be in possession of talented commanders was the main contributor to the gaining of victories. These are very dangerous statements - experienced, brave patriotic men would then easily be given over to the great mob, who without doing any investigation entirely believes the truths of such statements.  How recently was the staff broken up because of rumors over Mac-Mahon, Bazaine, Bourbaki and other French commanders, while they could point to their pasts to more than one victory!

Lee, McClellan, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan have gained world renown, genius level talent have been attributed to them. But has one of them ever gained a victory as marvelous and decisive of Prussian commanders or of the French from the Napoleonic era?  Let’s be reasonable, in order to win a commander needs more than experience and energy. First and foremost is there a need of a useful army. When that instrument doesn’t work well, isn’t good, and isn’t used to it’s commanding officers, then the general might be able to circumvent great catastrophes, but gaining victory will never be possible unless the opponent brings up an equally bad army to the field, or if a good army is led by an incompetent commander. Great command achieves certainly a lot, but not everything. It may be true that everyone can defend himself, and that every individual and every nation equipped with the most rough means, is able to fight.  But he who is skilled in handling a weapon, whose people possess an outstanding army led by a skillful commander, has the best chance with the least loss to defeat its enemies and maintain its freedom.

If the USA in peacetime maintained a federal army of more than 17,000 men, and if it put less attention to the exaggerated demands of the state, then the breakout of the notorious Civil War could have easily been prevented, and stopped in its developing stage. A more peaceful path could then have been followed to pave the way for a solution of the dispute between North and South on the question of slavery. There is no need for an army or a fleet except in order to protect the borders, and uphold the sovereignty of the USA - this was pursued as policy.  Sir Obreen says that the North had mobilized 2,656,000 men, and the South had 1,100,000 people under arms. The South lost 304,000 men, to wounds and disease, the North lost 281,000 men. The Union's spending on the army and navy between 1861 and 1865 was $3,355 million against the $175 million which the army had cost up to the war.  Thus the government drew out a total of $3,180 million for the war. If you add up to that the $200 million for the bonuses for the volunteers and the costs for equipment and armament payed by the States, which is $3,045 million then the direct costs in total for the North would be around $6,440 million.  The war wasn’t cheap for the South; $30 million spent wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

But who calculates the damage done by the destruction of the rich and fertile areas in the South during the four years of war, and the withdrawal of three million people from the labor market? Who calculates the destruction of not only fortunes but also all sources of wealth in the Southern states, whose trade with the North dried up, who before the war had 42,000 ships at sail and after the war only 12,000 ships left.  Sander adds that in 1860 the ‘property’ in the Southern states were calculated have been $7,000 million, of which during the war $5,800 million was lost, that is 14 and a half billion guilders ( Dutch currency ) was lost. With these numbers of war expenditures, and destroyed property, a sum which with a yearly interest of 4%  for 1,800 million guilder, one could have paid for an unnecessary gigantic land and sea force all year round. One comes hereby to the realization that the USA would have benefited financially and in human life’s more if it had taken better care for its armed forces. Through bitter experience the federal government has learned from this mistake and maintains now an army of 40 to 50,000 men, which is large enough to serve as a strong arm of the federal government, but isn’t strong enough to be abused for criminal, power-hungry purposes.

Whereas in Europe because of internal political realities it is not possible to disband its armed forces or diminish them, the USA is allowed that luxury.
The young history of the United States of America demonstrates  that a proper investment in the armed forces insures a nation above all; through strength and ability to uphold its independence.

July 1871         A. Pompe

Obreen responded to the review of his book:

Reply by Obreen on Pompe's Book Review

Under the title of a ‘ krijgshistorische bijdrrage’ by Captain Pompe, in the August edition of the ‘Militaire spectator’ a number of opinions were given regarding the American Civil War.  Pompe disapproves of the relatively unarmed situation in the North-American Union. Following the American Civil War he advises government to keep attention and care on standing armies. His plea ends with the following words; ‘It would have been better for the Union if it had taken better care of its armed forces. Now it has learned through bitter experience, it maintains now an army of 40 to 50,000 strong.  An army that is strong enough to enforce its policies, but not so strong as to give a chance to power-hungry politicians. While the governments of Europe can’t disband their armies nor reduce it. The American republic has learned its lesson in its young history, that the strength and main condition of keeping its independence lays in its army.’’  First of all Mr. Pompe is mistaken if he assumes that the Union after the war learned from its mistake of a limited army.  On the contrary the Union has hastened itself in restoring the early, enviable antebellum situation. But of course this could only happen in steps, since the disbandment of the Confederate armies, peace and order hasn’t returned to the former slave states yet. This statement is confirmed by the Congressional act of July 1870 which numbered the army on only 35,000 men, all volunteers, and that from a population of 39 million souls.

But the whole statement of Pompe is incorrect for the following reasons. The government had showed so much interest in the army, that is was qualitatively very good, but not numerous. A stronger army would not have prevent a war, because the ideological differences between the North and South were simply too big. Neither would speedily have collapsed to violence. Only the full submission of one of the two sides would have ended the conflict. Above all a stronger army would have benefited the slaveholders more than the Union because in the army there were many more adherents for the south than there were for the North. And because former Democratic governments betrayed the Union, by splitting and sending the army as much south and west as possible. Furthermore a stronger army would not have ended the war more speedily, because the people wouldn’t have been subjected to it and its power left unbroken. However a war with a stronger army would have been waged with more strength, But the resources of both sides, the immense territory covered, the difficulty to conduct such huge military operations,  in such a thinly inhabited and by so few roads connected, heavily wooded country, bringing a war to a good end in such circumstances would have necessarily led to a retardation of the war.

I want to make a remark on Pompe’s last words, ‘ the strength and main condition for a state to maintain its independence lies in its armed forces.’  Through one sidedness that statement is  not true.  Even with the best army in the world, a state can be  weak, destabilized and ripe for its downfall.  But the spirit of the people, its moral and mental development, its welfare and happiness, its unity and its sense for liberty, and the righteousness of its state and social institutions are the main factors of the strength and independence of its nation. Now having discussed his final words, lets see how incorrect the opinion is that a strong army would have benefited the Union, in its smoother maintenance of internal security, and quickening the end of the rebellion of the Southern-states. The suggestion is that the history of European governments should have learned from the Union, that taking care of its armed forces secures its independence as a state. Did Mr. Pompe in his state of confusion maybe not mean something other than that he expressed? And did he actually want to warn governments that a strong army is necessary for maintaining internal peace by pointing out that the Union didn’t have a strong army, and thus where the status-quo was so roughly disturbed?  After having addressed the opponents of standing armies and high war-budgets. And after having put the following words in the mouth of those opponents, is North-America, with it’s 39 million souls and mere 35,000 soldiers-not a happy country!’ After which Pompe says that a ‘superficial’ observer will come to the conclusion that Europe, with its armaments and wars is on the wrong path. ( which is a very grounded conviction- not only of the ‘superficially minded, but also of those of deeper analysis )  He then attacks the social differences between Europe and America, which comes down to calling the situation of a sick guy ‘good’ because he knows his disease has a cause.  Pompe continues with, ‘ The limited population in contrast with its gigantic stretches of territory that is the United-States, makes it possible for everyone who wants to work to do so, possible to become wealthy through free expressions of all his strength.  There is a place there for everyone, and enough opportunity to ‘live’ in the literal sense of that word, without hindering his fellow citizen. While in Europe the self-interest of individuals, classes and whole states, requires a system that defends their acquired property and rights with violence. Here the petty jealousies, not to speak of the despicable hunger for power, debilitates the development and existence of the individuals, classes and states, while also keeping them divided, always ready for the moment to use violence.  In contrast people in America need and seek out each other, so they through combined effort establish great things, that will bring benefits to millions in the following century.’’

This is a very nice and beautiful argument, but it hasn’t anything to do with the discussion. It fits with the introduction, but doesn’t lead to the end. It is actually contradictory because the argument come down to this; An army in the USA is unnecessary because the country in thinly populated, while in Europe it is necessary because it is overpopulated.  Again prove that Pompe thinks that an army is there only for maintaining internal peace.  This is incorrect, because in the North-American cities with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants, there is no soldier in sight. Even New York, between the Hudson and East River, numbers around 2,000,000 inhabitants, there is no garrison. Nevertheless it is as safe as in any large European city.  This proves that a society, even in densely populated areas, peace can exist without an army.  Hence we read between the lines of Mr. Pompe, that we shouldn’t take the example of the American situation because the differences are to big and the American Civil War happened.  Mr. Pompe concludes his introduction, with a very desperate and dubious supposition, which is that the European states will continually will be forced to conscript a larger portion of it population, in order for them to uphold their rights, and defend their existence against greedy neighbors.  This dubious supposition is completely in common with the argument that an aggressive defense is needed in the expectancy of aggressive neighbors, who require growth and the need to exist.  Continual war and clash of arms  are presented thus as necessary.  But isn’t this not a bit too simple, and a case of wishful thinking?  And aren’t governments obliged to take care of the provisions and needs of the people they govern?  Never giving in to such needs as war is criminal, and I hope humanity hasn’t reached such a deep low that criminality is requirement for its existence.  However proponents of militarism are used to arguing with false arguments, the proponents of disarmament and the prevention of war.  This is instead of admitting that war is horror, and that standing armies are a cancer of society, instead of admitting that our situation is unhealthy, and needs to be improved.  The causes and symptoms must be removed so that we can be liberated from its consequences.  They declare that humanity is beyond repair and that society can’t do without armies, that states can’t exist without wars.  Does that make a human being worthy?  Will the following generation, that have to pay the debts created to pay for our armies and war find that acceptable?

Mr. Pompe continues and takes a quick glance on the political and social life of the USA, in which he claims that in practice there isn’t much to be learned from a young nation as the USA.  I’ll give in that the things which benefit the USA cannot be simply copied and applied here.  However I believe that there is still a lot for Europe to learn from America's current and former events, even from the mistakes made out of the war.  Since when does a military man or politician study history only to learn from it how he should act while ignoring the lessons in how he shouldn't.  Mr. Pompe says, "A further study of the Civil War for the large public will be important because that war warns in an alarming way the consequences of mistakes that all to often are committed."  How petty does it sounds, that there isn’t anything to learn for the European from a war, which was conducted by the most practical people in the world!  But even with this vision is Mr. Pompe in contradiction with himself because later on he speaks of ‘peculiar’ skirmishes and battles in the campaigns along the Mississippi, in Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas.  He also speaks of the ‘curious’ attack-plan of Grant and of 'important' operations with which he finally pushed back in 1864 the ‘famous’ opponent Lee to the point, where McClellan wanted two years earlies to decide the war.

( A long summary of contradictions in the text, the writer keeps repeating the same arguments, against a standing army over and over and keeps pleading for a militia army)

Snippets of Obreen's book:

The unit of topographical engineers consisted of 6 officers, and 33 subalterns. It arranged troop movements, the laying down of roads, recommended strategic-points which needed to be reinforced, and produced topographical maps. The topographical engineers have produced excellent maps of the American coastlines. They also provided the enormous preparatory work for the building of Trans-Pacific railroad, a favorite among North-Americans.  Sufficient military maps of the inland areas didn’t exist, so commanders often were left in the dark. The largest existing map was that of Virginia…… No army in the world, with exception of the Russian one, has such a numerous train as North America at the outbreak of the war. Nevertheless the train was badly organized.  The vehicles were strong and durable, but heavy and unwieldy. It was square carts, with a wooden container which was covered by sailcloth., the wagon was often pulled by 4 mules; oxen were also used….  Every regiment infantry was followed by 60 wagons, and that of a regiment of cavalry by 90.  In the west were often 14 days of supplies including water taken with them, the amount of wagons surged to 150 per regiment…..  The Union Army was not like most armies, divided into brigades or divisions.  Instead the US Army was divided into military sections, in which every brigadier general held the same rank as our major general…..  Since the soldiers were prohibited from quartering in with civilians, they were provided on the march with the so called "wall tents" for the officers and the ‘Sibley tents’ for the privates…..  The somewhat laborious and puritan nature of the Northern Americans makes them denounce the military profession as only useful for bums.  In general an American would only enlist when he had no other means of existences left.  Therefore the army mainly consisted out of Irish and Germans who were attracted by the high wages, they often enlisted immediately on arrival in the New-world…..  The militia owned its existence to an article of the Constitution, that enables the call to arms of all US citizens between ages of 18 and 45.  The Constitution also requires that each citizen is in possession of arms, and that they should train themselves during peacetime.  The militia could also be used to maintain the internal peace.  Here strength in 1860 was 3 million of which 1 million was in the Southern states.  Its organization differed from state to state. For example the state of New York was divided into eight large districts equal in population which were required each to deliver one division. The whole strength consisted out of 80 regiments of 6 to 12 companies. Many regiments however only existed on paper. The militia of the city of New York formed only one division which never or only rarely came under arms and of which many regiments were formed up of only wealthy citizens who resided in beautiful buildings with exercise, reading and relaxation rooms.  The governor of each state carried as commander in chief the responsibility for the organization, maintenance, and training.  The governor was aided by an aide-de-camp of the state, and a quartermaster. These posts were often given to men who didn’t have any military skills. In the Northern states the militia was mainly untrained, or existed only on paper, since many laws granted exemptions, which may have satisfied the people but made the stipulations of the Constitution hollow. The Americans who are always busy to create associations, of different natures, also set up associations related to the martial arts. They mainly serve during festive occasions, so that they can prance with their uniforms in parades. If they are organized along the lines of militia laws of the state then they are militia companies. If this is not the case then they are state guards, whose number are legion. Their original purpose is beside the point, their self-professed "upholding of civilian duties" is nothing more than a game or a means for political purposes.

The Northerners had because of a lack of troops and by underestimating the strength and extension of the rebellion neglected the only thing that could have led to a speedy recover of the Union - namely occupying all the fortresses and strategic points along railroad lines of the Southern states. Now they had to protect their stretched borders and wage an offensive war against an enemy that had the advantage of central position and excellent operation and communication lines….. The application of the (Anaconda) strategy was with the limited and in many ways inexperienced armed forces, just wrong, and would have simply led to the fragmentation of its power projection, which would have resulted in the diminishing of its chances of success.

When Congress determined the amount of volunteers to be raised… Every governor gave the announcement that a certain amount of regiments have to be raised. This resulted in the popping up of certain persons who would like to raise a regiment but who in order to get a permission from the governor turned to using his political influence and popularity among the electorate to achieve that goal.  Most applicants demanded the condition that they could lead their raised regiment. The Governor hence made the decision, that those who were able to recruit a certain amount of men would be given the ranks of officer and subaltern.  On which those who wished to raise a regiment started to make contacts with the recruiting officers, and suppliers, while also turning to friends and relatives for support. But to get to the required amount of recruits, some hard handed measures had to be taken. Gigantic billposters announced the advantages of enlisting. The Roman-Catholic priests had to be convinced in order for them to convince the Irish to enlist.  Taverns, and dance-houses were overwhelmed, everyone sitting there was almost forced to take service.  Also speeches in clubs, magazine articles, and large public meetings were used to raise the spirit of the crowds.  In New York there were two such meetings at which 50,000 people attended. But the most powerful tool that the Union used was the promise of bonuses which could amount to 300 dollars.  It was thus how the regiment was raised.  With a lot of haste, hastily dressed and equipped, they were sent by train to the nearest station of the war theater.  Sometimes the men voted which person would receive a rank but most of the time it was all decided beforehand by the person who raised the regiment. The officers as well as the soldiers lacked military knowledge or experience. The soldiers, hence didn’t trust their officers, and often refused to obey them, while the officers didn’t dare to maintain the discipline.  If one had used the 4,000 regulars in the North as a core for the army and put the existing officer corps with the new regiments, efficiency would have improved.  But this would have been completely against the American ideology, where men imagine themselves to know how to do everything already and by only putting on a uniform become a full professional soldier. While attempts were made to strengthen the existing army, a whole new army consisting only out of volunteers sprang forth.  It speaks for itself that only few took service in the regular army, where order and discipline was maintained. At the volunteer regiments lawlessness and indiscipline existed. Only those volunteer regiments led by professional officers made an exception. But if an officer only differed from his soldiers in the distinctive marks on his uniform he would only be rarely obeyed by the soldiers. It happened regularly that a regiment which held itself well under fire suddenly decided to withdraw simply because they were of the opinion that they did enough.  The volunteer regiments were furthermore very expensive. A volunteer received in addition to his bonus also a monthly wage of 13 dollars and his wife 12 dollars a month.  No wonder that this led to many staged marriages. And besides the money, he also received clothing, food and everything else that is needed to sustain him. The volunteer regiments also had a big disadvantage in that they lacked a depot component so that losses could not be replenished and thus regiments withered away without veterans being able to pass wisdom to new recruits……

On Bull Run:

However there was much left to be wished for in the plan at Bull Run. Still the disastrous consequences can’t be blamed solely on McDowell.  His biggest mistake was that he didn’t make use of all his available units and left a strong reserve too far from the battlefield.  Instead of a demonstration, which was insufficient to neutralize the enemy’s center, he should have ordered a decisive attack on the same spot.  But even on the battlefield he didn’t make the right decisions and leadership was lacking.  The brigade of Howard remained too far back in reserve, for it to be able to act on the right moment.  And the brigade of Schenck didn’t take action.  Also the regiments attacked in turn instead of together. Of the 34,000 men that were available only 21,400 took action and 3,000 only took part in the fights when the battle was already decided.  Much of this is to be blamed on the bad execution of the march which is mainly to be explained by a lack of staff-officers who at an inexperienced and untrained army were indispensable for the right execution of the given orders and organizing the marching-route of the army.  The disadvantage of the loss of time prevented the ability to take effective action and to bring unity and cohesion to army.  The inexperience of the officers and men were the cause that confusion reigned when the enemy fired its first shots.  This also caused them to stand fast stubbornly under danger and under unfavorable circumstances which went beyond their ability.  The panic that took hold of the army should be ascribed to these causes and when we accept this then I don’t believe we should blame those poor wretches for cowardice.  In contrast with the Federals the Southerners made excellent use of their armed forces and leadership, leaving them little left to wish for.  However one shouldn’t forget that they were on the defensive and had the easiest task to fulfill.  They didn’t have to make a tiring march and when the Federals lost their artillery it wasn’t that difficult to triumph.

Defenses of Washington, D.C.:

The general opinion that an untrained army of 80,000 men could restore the Union in a matter of months was indeed foolishness which underestimated the strength and reach of the rebellion……  The balloon was only used for two years by the army of the Potomac for reconnaissance, however the wooded terrain of Virginia hampered the observations to such a degree that they never bore fruit; for this reason further use of the balloon was given up completely in 1863…….. Washington could have become a stronghold when the strength of her fortifications were equal to its distances.  On the last of December on both bank of the Potomac there were erected 32 and later on 60 detached field-fortifications, surrounded by a double or sometimes three-doubled row, and a circumference of 60,000 el ( One el is 69,7 cm old Dutch measurement ) or a square that 15,000 el was closed in from all sides, which in effect became a stretched out retrenched camp which would have been on some spots very strong but in general have been very weak.  This proves that there was a lack of a plan or system for the placement of those fortifications. Most fortresses were closed and surrounded by a palisade, while others were extensive and quite well built. The armament after some time also became sufficient. In general the fortifications fulfilled the expectations, but seen as a whole it was quite bad. For example the fortresses which served as a support for offensive operations, couldn’t be used to sally forth an attack; because of their position. While others, which were desperately built too far from the main line were completely open. The defense therefore wouldn’t be supported but rather hindered by these fortresses. Because positions in the terrain that were of no use, which without any danger could have been left unoccupied, because of the field-works became very important, and gave the immediate cause of too unnecessary of a division of strength.  On all the fronts there had to be a first reserve, and because of the huge distances also a second one present. While a general reserve had to occupy the center, just to defend the most important and most threatened sections, which meant that a 120,000 men wouldn’t have been barely enough to defend their position properly. The circumstances would have become totally different, if the defense was organized on a smaller scale. For that there first of all a 5th or 6th of all existing fortifications had to be demolished, and the following measures necessary; the building of a fortress in Alexandria, the mining of the bridges so that they could be detonated on the approach of the enemy.  The building of 7 to 8 shielded coastal batteries on the left bank of the Potomac, in order to cover Washington D.C. as much as possible with heavy artillery from that of the enemy.  The building of a masonry fortress north-west of Georgetown. The furnishing of four grand public buildings inside Washington as redoubts, especially the Capitol would have been very suitable for this. Careful patrol from the Potomac up to Harper’s ferry, for which 10,000 men would be necessary.  And finally the positioning of 4 or 5 gunboats between Washington and Alexandria.  With all these measures a permanent presence of 25,000 men would be sufficient to ward off an attack. By using my proposed system, there would have been left a 100,000 men for offensive operations after the deduction of 35,000 men for Washington.  This all could have been achieved in four weeks time….. I don’t share the opinion of McClellan that all operations elsewhere should have been halted and be put on the defense. It would have been truly advantageous for Virginia, when offenses on the other theaters would have been neutralized. The effects of events elsewhere that had an effect on Virginia proves it as such. But the armies on all fronts had to have been equal in numbers and equipment, to the military goals they fighting for. It would have been wrong for the Union to act offensively on all fronts, but that doesn’t justify the denuding of the armed forces in all states, which lead them to play a more passive role, and above all because a victory in Virginia didn’t decide the fate of the Union.


It was difficult to organize a general staff, not only because there was no material to create one but also because with a few exceptions no one considered the use or need of that department. ( writer calls it ‘wapen’ which means arm or weapon )  No one knew that the general staff is, for an army, the same as senses are for the body.  The labors of the staff officers were in the beginning often quite faultily done.  Also the staff officers of the generals, divisions, army corps, and armies but also the topographical officers and signal corps made many mistakes.  McClellan surrounded himself early on with a large staff, of which were members General Williams, and Major Hardee, of the aide-de-camp department ( ‘adjutant-general’ I don’t know what the American version of this is) the colonels Colburn, Sweitzer, Wright, and Hudson of the standing army as well as a couple of European officers such as two Prussians, one Austrian, one Hanoverian, two Swedish, one Swiss- Lieutenant-colonel Lecomte, three Frenchman namely the count of Paris, the duke of Chartres, and an added captain of the Jägers on foot, Morchan……

Soldiers, Orders, Medical Care:

McClellan wanted to add to every division a regiment of cavalry, and make the cavalry of the standing army into a reserve, however the state of the cavalry was much too weak for this to be achieved……. guerrilla/partisan war was the cavalry most useful, and many times did they fight in wooded and hilly country on foot as infantry.  The horses were often neglected in a state, but there was much improvement when an inspection bureau was set up…..  Sometimes great services were done by the Napoleon cannons on short distances, which is why the troops favored them above rifled artillery. The bronze 12 and 24 pounder howitzers shoot grenades, shrapnel and grape. Since the Americans don’t fire the rifled guns and 12 pounders in high trajectories, they added to each battery 2 howitzers, which never could be missed in woody covered terrain.  The 24 pounders were only used as positional artillery, and thus put with the reserve artillery…..  The dark blue and black leather uniforms gave the troops a somber outlook. Only several regiments had a more dashing colorful, uniform. But also these were replaced as the war went along with the more efficient and cheaper uniform of the army. The disadvantage of the simplicity of the clothing is the total lack of distinguishing marks, which made itself shown when the men could only with difficulty regroup during battle, and the officers couldn’t recognize its units.  Later on there was some improvement by the provision of pennants to each corps, and distinguishing marks to each division, which were colored differently. The staffs were also given pennants with the same goal…..  The American soldier excels in its ability and skill, in laying down roads and the building of bridges, earthworks, woodworks etc. Often they had to build wooden roads ‘corduroy’ or plank roads, with which trees of 2 to 3 palms length were laid together.  Admirable is the patience, calm, willpower and dexterity of the American soldier.  On the opposite side its discipline in respect towards its superiors often leave much to wish for. One main cause is the amount of freedom of the individuals as citizen, which is taken into the military sphere, even though obedience is a requirement of war. The court martials multiplied into many as a cause of this, but without any real effective result, and which pulls away many soldiers from active service. In every division there are a dozen delayed processes going on, that have to be decided by its main officers.  Also the officers do not maintain their authority enough, they often gave way to the wishes of the soldier.  Especially desertion and temporary abstention of the corp without permission was a commonly occurring phenomenon.  With the result that the army in the presence of railroads or big cities, a third of its force missed to leave without permission.  It is true that clerks and the police were given the task of tracking them down, but they don’t have enough men to fulfill that task.  The civilian pride of keeping his individual liberty and independence, which is so disastrous in the military sphere, can be found in the American army in all ranks.  In the higher ranks it manifests itself in too many deliberations and discussion over operations, which lead to the undermining of the initiative and decision making of the commander in chief.  Besides that the orders given too often miss that decisive tone of authority which are essential.  Often orders are not being followed but argued and commentated against.  When instructions and official orders have the character of diplomatic dispatches then it leads to the tendency of negotiating instead of being ordered and obeying those orders.  What also happens a lot is that a commander is obstructed by political intrigues, limitless pride, and greed, by regular judgment by the press of his actions and ranking him among winners or losers, ( the writer means that press ranks generals, like it ranks celebrities, or presidential candidates, in an imaginary top ten list depending on how the public views them. ) the excessive fear by governments of the rise of military dictators by countless of clubs, magazines, and courts, who unconsciously spill out important military information and help benefit spy networks, and finally the distrust and eagerness of officers, who are divided by party politics, and who cannot form bonds of camaraderie with their fellow officers as such.  A common vice occurring in the North American armies is drunkenness, which is why even the limited use of liquor is prohibited in garrisons as well as camps in the field.  There is something somber and withdrawn in the American soldier, cheerfulness and lightheartedness, which in many difficult circumstances boost morale are lacking in him, he laughs and sings seldom.  He is not only a soldier but above all a civilian.  He always thinks about his country, his interests, and the interests relatives, he writes and receives letters, he politicizes, reads magazines, writes articles, and makes plans for military campaigns on large or small scale.  That eagerness isn’t being awakened by rewards, no honors, no medals, no note even pensions; ( although nor from the government at least ) for wounded or for widows and orphans.  If one also takes into notice his depressing uniform, and the very bad music, the strict prohibition to use liquor or to plunder, than it seems that only patriotism and the high wages, lure the men to voluntary service, and that only the latter is a virtue which excites the soldier.  In the spring of 1862 McClellan for this reason ordered that every regiment, squadron, or battery should have a flag, with names stitched into it of the fights in which each unit honorably participated. The care by the first-aid of the soldier was in general excellent; the American people can boast that in no European war the health situation of the troops was this good and the number of death in the hospitals this low as in these four years of war, which started totally unprepared and under adverse circumstances….  In July 1863 one counted 182 grand hospitals with 96,000 field beds. At the time there remained in those hospitals 9.1 and in the field hospitals. 4.4% sick from the whole army.  Of these 13.5% were 2.5% wounded.  In the first year of the war of 30 June 1861 till 30 June 1862 the mortality rate of the whole army consisted of 67.6 per 1000 men, of which 50.4 sick and 17.2 wounded.  In the hospitals died 6.5 to 2.9 percent of the amputated men 30%. ( The mortality of the French army in the Crimean consisted per year of 121 person to sickness, 34 to wounds a 155 per thousand men. The English army 93 to sickness, 23 to wounds per thousand men 116. The mortality rate of the French Army in the hospitals consisted of 21.8%……..)

Peninsula Campaign:

Not only did McClellan see in the movement of his base of operations to the peninsula as having the advantage of avoiding a dangerous counterattack and the nearby reach of the capital which the enemy could not protect sufficiently but he also was of the opinion that it would win him time because the area between Urbana and Richmond far more suitable is for troop movement than between Manassas and Washington.  Above all the spring would reach earlier there than in the north. He forgot however that the gain in time which would be won with this, would be lost to the time it took to assemble a fleet, and the embarkation/disembarkation of the troops.  He would also have possession over fewer troops there than he would have in Manassas, with the added advantage that he would cover Washington at the same time.  For his operation he needed to designate a separate army with the goal not of threatening Southern positions, but of a decisive victory for which there wasn’t any greater chance at Richmond than at Manassas.  Because the Confederates could easily position a strong army at Richmond thanks to their railroads and who could arrive there earlier or at the same time as McClellan which would also enable them to choose the battlefield.  The superiority of numbers, the only secure thing for victory under similar circumstances, wouldn’t favor McClellan.  But he must have known that he would be weaker on the Peninsula than in Washington.  Naivety indeed!  Which led to  the consequences being worse than predicted by those who disapproved of the plan could have foreseen.  In defense of McClellan, the Prince of Joinville gives in his ‘ Campagne du Potomac’ plenty of reasons for the move to the Peninsula, namely the conditions of the roads in Eastern Virginia during March which would prevent the pursuit of a routed army so that a victory at Manassas wouldn’t bear any fruit…….    The Southerners abandoned Yorktown and the Federals pursued without much gain due to the roads while also taking far heavier casualties then the enemy.  The cause of that must be in large part the shortcomings of the army already mentioned.  But also there were was a complete lack of marching orders and the fighting leadership was highly defective and brought a mischievous influence on the operations of the Federals at Williamsburg.  The fact that Hooker was fighting while being outnumbered while not being supported must be blamed on Sumner, who shouldn’t have left the division of Smith idle.  Finally it is inexplicable that after the fight which Stoneman had delivered, no general dispositions were made the next day.  It seems as if everyone in the army remained oblivious to that fight……  The unfortunate result of the peninsula campaign has given reason for Régis de Trobiand to say the following hard but not unreasonable judgment over McClellan. “ The Seven-day battle was the logical result of the this sad campaign, which forever in history will testify to the military incompetence, political blindness, and weaknesses of many kinds that were inherited by McClellan.  These series of drawbacks can’t be blamed on on fate, on coincidental circumstances, on the proportion of both armies.  No, the commander in chief was and will remain responsible for all the unfortunate events, which were his responsibility.  We should have triumphed.  A competent general would have led us to Richmond, to which we would have taken the city by Independence day.  What would have been necessary to achieve that?  Forceful and fast moving operations, which made advantage of our strengths, determined attacks of the enemy, and by crushing the enemy by our overwhelming numbers. We didn’t even have to destroy the enemy’s army because the government in Richmond was already starting to flee on hearing our victory at Williamsburg.  But McClellan didn’t act quickly or forcefully.  In his fearful, spirited imaginary dreams he turned our advantages into disadvantages.  His startled look saw the enemy always as larger and our army as unreasonably tiny’’…..  That most European officers who visited the Army of the Potomac were taken in by McClellan can only be explained by his charming personality.  He was a competent engineering officer and a gentleman in the full sense of that word.  But he was completely unfit as a commanding over an army….

Confederate Raids:

That the Southerners were often so successful in their raids is attributable to leaving the lines of operation unguarded and the systematic neglect with which the security services on the Federal side faced...  A professional security service with all the necessary precautions did not exist.  If we take in mind the terrain and the thinly populated areas, the Federals still should have conducted strong cavalry patrols. Not only in the for the front and rears, but also on operation and communication lines of the army.  However their cavalry was simply too weak, and too badly conducted, a situation which only changed when a strict control was enforced on the care of the horses and the creation of depots for the training of those horses……..

Gettysburg and Use of Cavalry:

...But there existed another reason which was only known by the staff of Meade. There was a lack of ammunition for the infantry which was a consequence from bad habit of the soldiers to open fire even when the enemy was so far away that it wouldn’t have any effect.  This habit was reinforced through the free availability of the brigade commanders over the reserve ammunition.  This made the difficult and important task of saving ammunition by the commanding general almost impossible….  The Northerners had finally triumphed even though the victory was bought dearly.  It was nevertheless decisive and took from the Southerners their prestige.  The Southerners could thank their many victories to better leadership, their better training and better organization, and high dose of self-confidence since Bull Run - the battle now demonstrated that the Northerners under competent leadership were able to match them.  On the action of Meade we should note that he was highly careless when he put his right wing in a vulnerable position.  This would have led to great consequences if Ewell had attacked him there with more troops.  Nevertheless Meade and all his officers deserve praise.  Totally different is my judgment over Lee, whose stretched positions were the reason that the attack was conducted everywhere without enough vigor.  Furthermore the main battle should have taken place in the morning of the 2nd  instead of the late afternoon, with the result that all gains on the 1st were lost.  By the way Lee admits this all himself and according to him the main attack on 3rd should have taken place with 30,000 men instead of 20,000.  Finally the battle of Gettysburg gives us reason to comment on the cavalry of both armies.  The North had a numerical superiority in this arm and the cavalry of the south did regroup with the army after the battle.  So why did none draw swords?  This is not only to be ascribed to the terrain because they could along the right and left flank duel in the valley and take part in the battle.  They could also have done the same at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville were the terrain was even more unfavorable.  The main cause is the intended goal and use of this arm in both armies, which in turn were a result of the lack of training of officers and men.  Training was lacking in the cavalry especially in the practice in fighting in closed order, which also meant they wouldn’t even be effective against shaken infantry or be decisive on  a battlefield.  This is why the commanders often purposely never positioned them on the battle line and did all to prevent them of even taking part in the fight.  This is why even decisive victories in the Civil war barely bore fruit.  Both side regarded the cavalry to be an arm that should be separated from the army and act independently in order to attack enemy lines of operation and communication.  Henceforth the many raids of Stuart, Morgan, Forrest, Stoneman, Kilpatrick and Sheridan led to the result that they would be absent when battle took place.  As a consequence of this the cavalry's usefulness and utility remained far beneath the other arms and she was sometimes nothing more than mounted infantry.  The bad care of the horses finally exhausted the horses to such a degree, that Lee sometimes couldn’t arrange the required horsemen for the reconnaissance….

Miscellaneous - Including Lack of Staff:

After such as long war; both armies had developed a core trained and hardened soldiers, while the lack of training for the officers was now made up by their experience, and the dismissal of the incompetent among their ranks.  This phenomenon however didn’t fully take place among the generals of which many in the designing of grand operations, and the leading of great masses of soldiers, still didn’t understand the consequences of a lack in preparative study and work which were required.  The lack of proper staff-officers also led many well conceived plans to be doomed to failure, simply because the army commander can’t take the task of focusing on all the details, as has been discussed already. The discipline was now better maintained by becoming more strict.  That this wasn’t an easy task we can glean from the fact that the highest military court took care in 14 months of 20,000 cases.  The removal of the souteniers from the army, (who often served as spies) had a positive effect on the behavior of the soldiers.  It also proved to be beneficial to them since liquor became cheaper when the administration of wares took over the sale of it. The number of deserters diminished, still during the months of September and October 5,000 men went missing….  In the USA railroads are because of the more thinly populated areas and the immense stretches of the country often the only way in which an army could move and receive its supplies.  The goal of many expeditions were therefore the destruction, and sabotage of the railroads and railroad equipment, as well as the occupation of strategic points on those lines, especially those points where the railroads cross each other…..

Grant 1864-65:

There now was a stalemate over the whole battle-line, which we often find among the battles of the Americans, and which don’t arise if the troops are used in an effective and frugal way…..

The campaign of Grant has ended, and cost the Union 50,000 in casualties, without having conquered anything but a part of Virginia north of Richmond….  The reward for the dexterous bravery of the Northerners, was hence not great.  The cause of this shouldn’t be sought out in the conduct of the operations but partly in the difficulty of fighting with an army like that of the Americans on a terrain like Virginia.  To perform on the battlefield, tactical combinations, which end in an attack on the flanks or or rear of the enemy, proved to be as difficult.  But also the skilled defense of Lee, who was only defeated when his army got exhausted, played a part to the high casualties.  People criticize Lee for always fortifying and not trusting enough the flanking bayonet attack.  I belief that Lee couldn’t have acted differently and that his greatest glory is by having fought seven weeks long, against superior numbers, having sabotaged all the enemy’s plans, and to inflict on the enemy twice the casualties he had suffered.  Grant can be blamed that he recklessly wasted human lives by ordering assaults on positions which were in his estimation even impossible to take.  He didn’t distinguish between the possible and the difficult.  The impatient desire of the people, as well as the government for victories, the expectation that Grant would repeat his victories over weaker enemies in the west, and the stubbornness that was characteristic of Grant, led to his reckless tactics which proved to be ineffective against the well trained, well armed and competently led army of the Confederacy, who behind fortifications defended their freedom and their homes.  Hence the glory Grant gained at the Mississippi and the Tennessee were darkened by the bloody laurels of Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor.   

Economic Consequences in Europe and the US:

Outside America the consequences of this civil war were felt.  Think for example all those branches in trade and industry, and not to to speak of the cotton-crisis in Europe, of which we here in the Netherlands had its consequences, namely that 100,000 workers during three years were unemployed and that those who still had a job worked for lesser pay…..  The repayment of the immense debt which has accumulated during the war, which climbed $6,612 million, was now a major point of the Republican party. However they took a wrong course in that by taxing the European products with 30 to 90 percent of their value, trade slowed down.  Above all the treasury didn’t reap all the benefits of this import-tax, which was a cause for the growth in smuggling, which took away a third of the tax from imports.  That is why the elections of 1870 turned around the question of tariffs.

Militia or Professional Army for The Netherlands:

Many have questioned if the expensive, unproductive standing army must be replaced by the American model of partial volunteers, partial conscription in times of need?  We answer that, but changes can only happen if different European powers would at the same time come to such a decision.  Only then would an efficient fortress line, well equipped, a very small army, entirely consisting out of volunteers, trained in weapon management, and the call of all able-bodied civilians, properly trained and of course trained on schedule be sufficient to ensure our independence.  This is impossible as long in Europe as power goes to the political right.  Under the current unfortunate circumstances, now governments and people act unrestricted in gruesome deeds of violence. Now in a great part of the Christian world for more than a thousand years Christians have murdered and robbed in the name of the God of love.  Now it is especially necessary to be prepared on attacks from outside. Now it isn’t enough to have an army that is so called ‘trained’.  Not enough that a minister of war gives the assurance that we are ready, now we must’t doubt the truth of experts.  Now the army can’t be in need of anything, but must equal in skill and leadership that of its neighbors.  Especially in our country; the medical-services must be pointed out to the example of the Americans.  Prophets of frugality find it ridiculous that the North American armies, counted 7,000 medics.  It is disgraceful that governments who  are in the luxury of spending money on an expensive army, and who wage such gruesome wars, don’t have the money to spend for sufficient personnel and equipment for the nursing of the victims who through their mischievous vanity or diplomatic blundering the politicians created.  According to the order of the 16th of March 1864 a regiment of 10 companies, with an average of 7 to 500 men, possessed over 3 hospital tents, 2 normal tents, 3 ambulance wagons pulled by two horses, 2 large transport-wagons pulled by 6 mules, furthermore per brigade 1 apothecary wagon, and 1 apothecary wagon with table for amputation. In short a division of 8,000 men has 30 ambulances with a 120 carriers, and ( ‘ligplaatsen’ literally meaning laying down places? I don’t know what he means by that )  The commander of an army corps, gives a captain the command over and ambulance-train, to him were added form every division; a 1st lieutenant, from every brigade a 2nd lieutenant, per regiment a sergeant, per ambulance 3 soldiers as drivers and carriers and per wagon is also added 1 soldier. These officers and sub-officers were mounted, they had to give proof of their suitability of this task. The captain was under command of a medical-director of the corps. He has under him two adjunct-doctors, one doctor and chef per division, one medical doctor per brigade, and one 1 doctor, 2 adjunct-doctors and 1 hospital-steward per regiment.  Especially since 1863 the medical situation was excellent. The limited amount of sick troops, despite the exhaustion they faced must be ascribed to; 1, Excellent nursing and meals, 2, Total lack of venereal disease, 3, The common use of flannel shirts and trousers, 4, Cleanliness of the troops, 5, the prohibition of brewed drinks even at the officers mess.  From 1851-1865 a total of 1,057,423 were taken into hospitals of which 2/3 were sick and 1/3 were wounded. The mortality rate in the hospitals and ambulances was 13 percent.  The camps for recovery were of great use.  Fairfax hospital was built for 15,000 men - during 1863-1865 a total of 170,000 men were taken in.  In principle it was meant for only 5,000 men, but this was readjusted in 3 months.

Except for the division of  administrative services, which in the European armies is performed by the commissariat, by three kinds of administrators, there is still a very large gap in compatibility between the American and European armies. The paymaster, quartermaster, food-commissaries , and doctors receive their payments in advance, on on request of the minister of war without any intermediary in between.  A comparison of the equipment of the American soldier with that of the Dutch would put our government and people to shame.  Because when one comes to the conclusion that our soldier isn’t equipped properly.  Indeed it was in the summer of 1870 embarrassing to see how our men suffered form a lack of clothes.  The American soldier receives for five year service, yearly 45 dollars for his equipment ….  About the housing of troops in training camps during the winter etc, in excellently made wooden buildings we will say nothing because in our country where wood is precious and the barracks and tents nearby never will be necessary.  Camp articles are provided in large quantities. ( tents, capes, axes etc )…  The destruction of railroads in America is so much easier, because their construction is so simple. For example the bridges and viaducts are often made of wood.  A... barrel of petroleum would be sufficient to achieve a lot. However the damage was also much more quickly repaired.  A bridge on the Potomac of 150 el length and 24 el height, was built in nine months, and rebuild in the same amount of days.


Copyright 2020, John Hamill


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