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.
|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.
Copyright 2020, John Hamill