Open Mike Weekend

Here’s your chance to ask questions and perhaps start a few discussions … have at it.


50 thoughts on “Open Mike Weekend

  1. Alfred. Hintz November 21, 2014 / 8:57 pm

    Do you think the Islanders have a chance at winning the Eastern Conference?

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 21, 2014 / 10:41 pm

      A chance? Yes. Likely? No. But I’d be very surprised if they are not playing in the playoffs.

      • Alfred. Hintz November 22, 2014 / 7:09 am

        Since I am a fan since inception, I needed verification that what I have been watching is real and not a mirage. Thanks for that.

      • John Foskett November 22, 2014 / 9:14 am

        No. 27 will be a good asset.

  2. Vince (Lancaster at War) November 21, 2014 / 9:05 pm

    What’s the best book for analyzing logistics and supply chain management (and its relationship to strategy) of Civil War field armies, either over the course of the war or for a particular campaign?

  3. Stefan Jovanovich November 22, 2014 / 6:44 am

    The re-establishment and maintenance of the Constitutional gold standard became the signature issue for the Republican Party for the last third of the 19th century; without it the Republicans could never have become the near equal to the Democrats at local, state and national levels (the first and still the only one in American history). Resumption was the issue on which the Democrats repeatedly failed to win popular opinion and on which they ultimately had to concede completely. Yet, Grant’s biographers (present company excluded) give almost no attention to Resumption and give no credit at all to Grant’s own political cleverness in literally ramming it through a lame duck session of Congress. Why?

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 22, 2014 / 4:15 pm

      Frank Scaturro does give it attention in his volume President Grant Reconsidered. In fact, older accounts of Grant as president made much of the April 1874 veto (more so than the 1875 act).

      • Stefan Jovanovich November 23, 2014 / 5:56 am

        Indeed. But those older accounts were written when the consequences of Grant’s policy were still hotly debated; they had not yet become the established consensus even within his own party. The words of the veto message (“I am not a believer in any artificial method of making paper money equal to coin when the coin is not owned or held ready to redeem the promises to pay, for paper money is nothing more than promises to pay, and is valuable exactly in proportion to the amount of coin that it can be converted into.”) were to become the essential element of the Republican’s political message for the next 60 years.

  4. Jerry D November 22, 2014 / 6:44 am

    where can I get an official red rider Enfield 1856 Naval Short Rifle ?

  5. Bert November 22, 2014 / 7:17 am

    Ever since I first came across it in your TOA, I’ve been intrigued by Grant’s 1/19/64 proposal to begin a major campaign through North Carolina. With the lovely benefit of hindsight, would this have accomplished all or most of what he predicted? Was the Confederacy still too strong in early ’64 for this to work? What would the CSA have had to do to try to check such a campaign once it was underway?

    I think this is more than just another “what if?” It speaks to Grant’s creativity, and deals with the issue of whether Halleck was right or wrong to reject the plan. It also is what eventually happened via the very indirect path of Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign a year later in the last months of the war.


    • Brooks D. Simpson November 22, 2014 / 4:22 pm

      I think the manpower was available to undertake this operation (use Burnside’s IX Corps and a corps from the Army of the Potomac, leaving Meade with a force equal to Lee’s). Halleck’s claim that there wasn’t enough manpower in January is irrelevant: we aren’t even taking the Army of the James into account.

      I don’t think the Confederacy would have had the manpower necessary to do more than slow this thrust down. Moreover, Lee would have found himself in a difficult spot: how does he defend Richmond? Does he just go after Meade?

      The logistical issues involved in Grant’s plan would have presented a more compelling challenge than the manpower issues.

      • jfepperson November 22, 2014 / 5:33 pm

        Wouldn’t the command structure in place at the time have given command of the expedition to Butler (unless Grant came along)?

        • Brooks D. Simpson November 22, 2014 / 5:55 pm

          Nope. You are projecting the spring situation on the winter situation. You just establish a different command and put in place a different commander. Butler was not put in command until April 1864.

          • jfepperson November 22, 2014 / 7:57 pm

            I thought Butler was put in charge of that department in the fall of 1863. Yes, according to one source (Dyer), he was placed in command of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina on Nov. 11, 1863. “Back Door to Richmond” says the same thing (p. 16).

          • jfepperson November 22, 2014 / 8:51 pm

            True (the AotJ didn’t even exist then), but that was the whole crux of the mid-summer (1864) controversy by which Butler would supposedly be pushed aside in favor of Smith. As commander of the Department, couldn’t he rightly argue for command of any forces operating within its boundaries? If anyone junior to Butler—say, Hancock, just to be specific—was assigned to command the expedition from Norfolk to Raleigh (a rough outline of the January Smith-Comstock plan), couldn’t Butler usurp the command by seniority plus his being the department commander? If not, why wouldn’t the plan to put Smith in charge of the AotJ (summer, 1864), with Butler shelved to administering the Department, have been viable?

            My frank opinion is that the Smith-Comstock plan is a good one, so long as no one whose last initial is “B” commands it 😉

          • Brooks D. Simpson November 22, 2014 / 11:50 pm

            Essential to understanding the July 1864 controversy was how the relationship between Butler, Smith, and Gillmore evolved. No James River/Bermuda Hundred Campaign, no such squabble. Note this was not an objection Halleck brought up at the time. As to why the July plan didn’t work, it’s because Halleck botched the wording of the order, and by that time Grant had little use for Smith. It also coincided with the veto of the Wade-Davis Bill, causing all sorts of concern, and the squabble came just as Early approached Washington. We tend to forget just how much was going on at that time.

          • jfepperson November 23, 2014 / 12:36 pm

            Thanks—I’d write more, but we are to the point in your threading where the posts appear about one word wide 😉 I have always liked the Smith-Comstock plan, as an idea, I’m just concerned about who would lead it.

          • Brooks D. Simpson November 23, 2014 / 1:17 pm

            I’m going to adjust how deep a thread may go. I don’t see the problem as others do because of the size of my screen. 🙂

  6. Mike Musick November 22, 2014 / 9:16 am

    University of Wisconsin historian Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932) gained acclaim with his emphasis on the importance of the frontier in American history. Later, Georgia-born Yale historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips (1874-1934), in somewhat similar fashion, claimed to have found the central theme of Southern history to be the struggle to make and keep the South a white man’s country. Was Phillips right? If he was, have more recent developments derailed his contention?

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 22, 2014 / 4:29 pm

      I think Phillips was only partly right. I think the interplay between race and class has been the central theme of southern history. White supremacy is part of that, but not the whole story. Slaveholders used race to make sure non-slaveholders did not make it class. The more recent twist (where people of color have risen once more to hold political office, although not in large numbers) points to a modification of the thesis, because race still fundamentally shapes southern politics, and so does class.

      • Stefan Jovanovich November 25, 2014 / 3:58 pm

        The South had more free blacks than any other part of the country before the Civil War. Confounding the question of race with the issue of slavery was useful to both Northern and Southern ideologues, but the expansion of the domestic slave production and distribution industry was the matter of interest at hand for the slaveholders. If they could expand the domestic slave trade to the Caribbean and Central America on a lily-White platform like Taft’s, then fine; if they could do it as a matter of civilizing the savage Indians and taking their lands, then fine. It did not matter. Grant saw through this from the beginning; it was the reason he thought the Mexican War was wholly evil; it was simply a land grab for the expansion of the slave industry.
        As for current politics, it really is time to allow a few facts to intrude. Obamacare reduces spending on Medicare – whose population is 77 percent white—by $500 billion over ten years and transfers much of that money to Medicaid, whose recipients are only 41 percent white. The recipients of Medicare paid Social Security and Medicare taxes; the recipients of Medicaid have not paid taxes for their “entitlements”. Clearly, the part of the country with more white retirees than any other is full of bigots because they see their self-interest as being adversely affected and voted accordingly.

  7. John Foskett November 22, 2014 / 9:19 am

    Taking off from your nice piece on Hancock in the recent Rafuse collection – what happened after the Overland Campaign (First Deep Bottom, Reams’, etc). – too many losses? the wound? did it illustrate some flaw in Hancock’s skill set at that level? Subordinates? Something else? All of the above?

    • jfepperson November 22, 2014 / 11:36 am

      It might be as simple as the Second Corps being over-used in the Overland Campaign, so it was worn down more.

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 22, 2014 / 4:32 pm

      The II Corps was worn out … and so was Hancock. The corps needed rest and new leadership. The VI Corps was revitalized by its experiences in the Valley, while the V Corps remained relatively intact, although at times its lack of discipline showed. The IX Corps improved in the wake of Burnside’s departure.

      • Buck Buchanan November 24, 2014 / 2:24 pm

        A little more on the II Corps. It suffered the highest casualties amongst company grade and junior field grade officers of the 4 corps of the AOP in Overland. Those are the officers in every army who get things done. That, coupled with the 3 year enlistments terminating, made the II Corps a shell of its former self.

  8. rortensie November 22, 2014 / 9:36 am

    You mentioned during a talk during either this past CWI or in 2012 about Grant writing about Confederate guerrillas (I believe during his move through Tennessee). When did he write about this? What was his views? And where can one find more on Grant’s views/dealings/policies against guerrilla warfare? Thanks!

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 22, 2014 / 4:33 pm

      Read that book you bought, or its predecessor. It’s explicit about 1862, a little less so about 1864.

      • rortensie November 22, 2014 / 4:54 pm

        Found it, thanks! May have to move the book towards the top of the read pile(s).

  9. Andy Papen November 22, 2014 / 11:44 am

    How serious were Grant’s thoughts, after becoming general in chief, on possibly finding a place for George McClellan in 1864?

    • Brooks D. Simpson November 22, 2014 / 4:34 pm

      I think his thoughts were serious, but, aside from his meeting with Lincoln on July 31, 1864, nothing came of them. This was not the case with Buell, who rejected an offer of command outright.

  10. jclark82 November 22, 2014 / 5:21 pm

    Seventh game of the World Series, winning run in scoring position with two outs. What Yankee from any era do you want at bat?

    Jerry Sudduth Jr.

  11. Al Mackey November 23, 2014 / 8:15 am

    This past Friday evening my round table hosted a popular author of Civil War books who made the statement that Grant made a mistake by not relieving Meade at the beginning of May, 1864 and taking over the duties of commanding the Army of the Potomac himself in addition to his duties as being General in Chief of all Union Armies. What do you make of this claim?

  12. Noma November 25, 2014 / 1:28 pm

    I still want to hear your thoughts about George Boutwell — Grant’s Secretary of the Treasury. He started out as an abolitionist, and in the end went on to become an anti-imperialist. He’s not a great writer, so does not get a lot of attention. Also, seems like sort of a quiet guy. But he was in on a lot of extremely interesting stuff — and was one of the pall-bearers at Grant’s funeral. I’d like to hear your thoughts on his relationship with Grant.

    • Stefan Jovanovich November 25, 2014 / 4:10 pm

      It is wrong to suggest that Boutwell “became” anti-imperialist. He and Grant had the same opinions on the question, and neither ever changed his position. Boutwell finally gave up on the Republicans when they became imperialists and completely abandoned Southern blacks to the tender mercies of the Southern Democrats. Boutwell supported William Jennings Bryan because Bryan was no more bigoted towards black people than his Republican opponents and he opposed the idea of having a splendid little war to add to American territory.

      • Noma November 25, 2014 / 4:49 pm

        Thanks, Stefan — what are the best sources about Boutwell?

        • Stefan Jovanovich November 25, 2014 / 8:22 pm

          Benjamin Quarles wrote a biography of him, published in 1933. My interest in him a
          comes from his sharing Grant’s view that the combination of a completely redeemable currency and free banking was essential; my knowledge of his abolitionist career is rather feeble.

      • Noma November 25, 2014 / 10:56 pm

        Happy Cranberry Day, Brooks!

  13. Dave November 28, 2014 / 4:27 pm

    HI Brooks,

    Any word about when the Gettysburg 1863 book willbe released?

  14. charlie December 3, 2014 / 2:54 pm

    Why did the Whig Party collapsed under the weight of sectional conflict and not the Democratic Party in the 1850’s?

    • Stefan Jovanovich December 3, 2014 / 9:22 pm

      The Whigs appear as a party in the 1836/7 elections, and they gain majorities in the House delegations of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and North Carolina and split the Maryland delegation. In 1840/1 they gain an outright majority in the House for the first time; but in two years they lose half their seats and are left with majorities only in Massachusetts and Vermont. They win a 4 vote majority in 1846/7 with successes in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and North Carolina; and then 2 years later they are in a 4-vote minority. In 1848/9 they lose 22 seats, and in 1850/1 they again lose – 15 seats – and are only a majority in Pennsylvania, Vermont and Massachusetts. They hold 71 seats; the Democrats hold 158. Sectionalism has had little to do with their successes or failures.

      What destroys the Whigs as a Party is the issue of immigration. It also nearly destroys the Democrats. In 1854/5 everything blows up over the question of “foreigners”. The Democrats lose 72 seats, have 4 members defect and hold only 82 seats; the Whigs lose 15 seats, have 2 defectors, and hold only 54 seats. The American Party gains 52 seats. By 1856/7 the Whigs are gone, and the Democrats are once again safely in the majority, winning back 49 seats for a total of 131. If Slavery has become the headline issue, it is not enough to win the Republicans a majority. What will do that is the support of the very people who made Buchanan President. In 1858/9, thanks to their sweep in Pennsylvania, the Republicans pick up 22 seats and have a working majority in the House. They still need to avoid being too insulting to the Tea Party -er, American Party – members who have not yet formally joined the grand coalition, but they are more than clever enough to do that. Where the Whigs were unavoidably anti-Catholic, the Republicans are masterful at being against immigration but welcoming to the German and Irish Catholics who are already here.

      And Thomas Bocock wonders what the hell has just happened.

    • John Foskett December 4, 2014 / 8:23 am

      The authority on this is Michael Holt and his (massive) book The Rise and Fall of the Whig Party. The whole subject is complicated but even by cherry-picking chapters you can gain a good understanding of why and how.

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