MYTH: The American Civil War Was Defined by Brilliant Generals and Strategy
How many Dodge Chargers have you seen running around sporting Union flags and blasting The Battle Hymn of the Republic? And of those zero, how many were christened The General George McClellan? You know a commander had to be spectacular to get his name slapped on the getaway car of moonshine running Southern outlaws.
The General Lee, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Why It's wrong:
General Lee aside, both the North and the South had their share of stupid generals, and the case has been made that the Confederates had the larger share, which is not too surprising when you consider that they lost.
The biggest problem was that the military elites from both the North and South were educated in old school battle techniques, but were firing off state of the art weaponry. Which meant they were still lining up and squaring off against each other in battle, but instead of shooting Revolutionary War muskets, they were shooting longer ranged rifles and the very first machine guns. Which made as much sense as taking grenades to a water gun fight -- one where no one shows up with water balloons. And why early Civil War battles like Shiloh killed more soldiers than every war in American history up to that point put together ... in just two days.
But better guns coupled with opposing soldiers so close they could foxtrot together wasn't the only problem for the generals. Both the North and South executed some bafflingly stupid strategies that cost the lives of thousands of men. Like when Robert E. Lee ordered Major General George Pickett to lead over 12,000 soldiers across an open field and into the loving arms firing rifles of Union soldiers, getting half of his men killed on the spot. Or when Union commander George B. McClellan became one of the few commanders in U.S. history to desert his troops not once or twice, but three times on the battlefield.
While I was researching the Battle of Secessionville for my book, A Scratch with the Rebels, I was hard-pressed to find a single competent general. I did find several drunks, at least one who was paranoid, and lots whose motives were personal aggrandizement or profit. The Union generals in that battle spend much of their time calling each other stupid, incompetent, ignorant, foolish, or idiotic. General Benham, who directed the Union assault on the Confederate fort, was court-marshalled for his efforts. Other participants were more quietly removed from command and given desk-jobs, where they could not cause further harm to innocent soldiers.
Seriously, with friends like that, who needs anything other than a last will and testament?
A reminder: The source for this post is Jacopo della Quercia's article, "6 Civil War Myths Everyone Believes (That are Total B. S.)" which appeared originally on Cracked.com. If you want the original version, you can find it at http://tinyurl.com/42l69pr .