Saturday Night Live!

As we slip into the evening hours, I thought I’d share with you this observation from one Mike Griffith, the moderator of the Yahoo Discussion Group “civilwardebate”:

Many have wondered why God intervened to help the Patriots defeat the British but did not intervene to help the Confederates beat the Yankees. Why didn’t God help the South win its independence?

My theory is that God knew that America would need the South, that America would be a worse place without the South. Without the South, a great deal of harmful legislation would have been passed by Congress, legislation that was either tabled or blocked because of Southern resistance. Without the South, we would have had Hubert Humphrey, Al Gore, and John Kerry. Etc., etc., etc.

I confess I don’t know where to start with this one, but it brought a smile to my face.  For example, what federal legislation was often blocked by southern opposition?  Oh, that’s right, legislation protecting African Americans and the civil rights of Americans. 

Of course, that suggests that God should have let “the South” (meaning the Confederacy) win in the first place, because that would have meant that there would have been no need to protect black equality given the triumph of the Confederacy.

God sure works in inscrutable ways … at least in Mike’s mind.

Then again, millions of southerners would have believed that if anything, God was on their side, and that Confederate defeat delivered them from slavery and Confederate oppression of white Unionists.  That “South” won.

And I thought we had Humphrey, Gore, and Kerry, simply not as president.  Humphrey, for example, was a major crusader for civil rights.  I never knew God was against that.  Must have missed the memo.

Nevertheless, something for all of you to think about this weekend.  After all, “many” have wondered about these issues, according to Mike.  Are you among the “many”?

A Yankee Makes History

We interrupt the usual Civil War banter with breaking news about a Yankee making history …

Derek Jeter reaches 3,000 hits with a home run in the third inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Here it is.

As most of you might know by now, Jeter is the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits as a Yankee; he is only the second MLB player to do so by hitting a home run (Tampa Bay’s Wade Boggs, a former Yankee, was the first).

Jeter is well known for his meticulous preparation and attention to detail, as we see here:

A few years ago, my daughter Becca and I prepared an essay on Jeter for an encyclopedia on African American icons edited by my colleague and friend, Matthew Whitaker.  Check out page 107 (I took the photograph in question).  So, yes, I’m just doing research.

UPDATE: So what does Jeter do next?  Three more hits (a 5 for 5 day), including driving in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth as the Yankees beat the Rays, 5-4.  All you can say is that these things happen because he is … Derek Jeter.

More evidence that real life is greater than fiction.

Oh, Really? Helga Ross on Slavery

At times on this blog I cross-reference discussions on the Yahoo Discussion Group “civilwarhistory2,” because I think some of the participants in the various discussions there often give voice to propositions worth examining.  Some may say I’m taking a warped slice of public opinion, but in truth it’s always useful for historians to take a look at what non-historians think about history and to sense how people understand history.

The comment highlighted below comes from one Helga Ross, who is an important participant in cwh2. Continue reading

Pursuing Lee: Meade After Gettysburg

There’s been a good deal of debate over the years as to the performance of George G. Meade between July 3 and July 13, 1863.  Should Meade have been more aggressive?  Should he have counterattacked on July 3?  Should he have attacked Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Williamsport?  Did Meade let slip an opportunity to win the war outright in the summer of 1863?

I don’t think so.  I believe it would have been difficult to mount a counterattack on July 3, especially as no preparations were made for one until after the repulse of the Confederate assault against the Union center earlier that afternoon.  While I think that Meade might have been too restrained in the days immediately after the battle, which made easier Lee’s efforts at disengagement and retreat, I’m well aware that with the losses suffered by his own army and the tattered command situation that moving forward effectively would have posed a challenge.  Whatever was to be done at Williamsport would have to have been done quickly, and by the time Meade was ready to consider an attack, the Confederates welcomed that opportunity.  Absent the ability to pin Lee in place while severing his route of retreat across the Potomac, I think Lee could have bloodied Meade’s nose significantly (much as Lee himself proved fortunate when Hooker’s decision to withdraw after Chancellorsville deprived Lee of the chance to assault a well-fortified Union position).

I also don’t believe that the Army of the Potomac was the sort of army to do things quickly and without hesitation.  Certainly its record in this regard was mixed, and Meade had not been on command long enough to change that army’s culture.  Absent Reynolds and Hancock, Meade’s corps commanders were a mixed lot, although one could argue that in that sense the absence of Dan Sickles made up for some of that.  Emerging for three days of hard fighting, it was asking a lot of this lot to launch another offensive that would have resulted in much more than another bloodletting.

And that’s for starters …

But you may feel differently.