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Wednesday, September 23, 2015


...if you are interested in matters Catholic, I strongly recommend my friend Steve Skojec's One Peter Five website and blog, along with the fine gents at The American Catholic. Negative? Well, yes. I'm a man of Stygian gloom much of the time.

If you'd like something more conventionally journalistic, there's the estimable John Allen (even though I think he's lost some velocity off his fastball in the last few years).

Steve was interviewed in the Washington Post recently re: the pontificate, but I can't find the farging link. Anyway, he did a fine job. [Update: here's the WaPo interview with Steve--thanks, Michelle!]

For Steve.

And, to clarify a bit from below: it was the religion/politics environment at FB that turned into a daily dose of plutonium. The stuff about kids, events, cat pictures--I miss that a bit. But Catholic matters? I only miss that in the sense of "but my aim is improving." Too many discussions ended with me trying to correct that hour's Ron Burgundy.

Or at least wanting to. And there isn't enough time in a day for that.

So, here I am, yapping into the void. Not so bad, really.


  1. I'm glad you'll still be blogging, Dale. I truly enjoy your writing.

  2. Well, let's stick with the American Civil War. I'm a yankee but have no axes to grind one way or another. I have no one else to engage with so I was pleased to see your Mac post.

    Anyway... keep posting what ever you like.

    I am re re re re reading Rhea's Overland Campaign books. Have you read them? To me they are by far and away the best treatment of those battles. Rhea treats the battles very deftly. Very easy to follow detail from regimental level to army. His take on Cold Harbor is quite contrary to portraying Grant as a poor tactician and "butcher" He notes that Hood lost more men at Franklin as did Lee on day 3 of Gettysburg! Ha. And, unlike Hood and Nashville, Grant called off the follow on attacks when it became obvious that a break thru was not going to happen.

    1. I don't have Rhea's books, but they just went on the wishlist.

      Yes, Grant's tactical abilities were really downplayed--quite unfairly so--until more recently. Part of it is a hangover of Lee's apotheosis and the Lost Cause myth working in conjunction--i.e., Lee was so much better that he could only be overwhelmed by the steamroller tactics of Grant the Butcher.

      Now, there is some element of truth to this--I still think Lee was a better tactician, but not decisively so. And Grant didn't shy away from attrition/stretching tactics. But the fact is, Grant had a lower casualty rate than Lee did, and Lee had his headlong charge moments, too--Pickett (as you note) and Malvern Hill.

      And, oh, dear God--what Hood did at Franklin was worse than murder. I'm a Union man, but I feel a sense of abiding sorrow for what happened to the good men of the Army of the Tennessee. It was a futile, needless slaughter.

    2. Hood was a great brigade and division commander; a mediocre corps commander, and wreck as an army commander. Some of that may have been youth, but not all of it. The ACW affords a number of examples of officers promoted beyond their ability through attrition or spoils, but Hood is one of the most egregious. A shame, not just for those dead boys, because it obscures how capable he was at lower levels of command early in the war.

      As for Grant: Overland is underrated, perhaps (and he was poorly served by some generals), but not without critique. Grant's true masterpiece, of course, was the Vicksburg Campaign, as fine a campaign as was mounted in the entire war.

    3. I generally agree with the "Peter Principle" read of Hood--with one exception.

      I think he was more unlucky than incompetent during the Atlanta Campaign. His battle plan was sound (granted, mostly drawn up by Johnston, but he followed it), but the execution was lacking. His corps commanders moved too slowly, and he had the horrible misfortune of smashing into an alert George Thomas. Nobody could push an even half-ready Rock off the battlefield.

      But the Nashville Campaign, while also hampered by misfortune, was the most atrocious piece of leadership during the War.

    4. Yes, Grant made mistakes during the Overland. I think it started with erecting a clunky command structure where he relayed things through Meade. It would have been unjust to fire the victor of Gettysburg who, as Lee predicted, made no blunder while facing him. But still it was awkward and hampered things.

      And, to paraphrase George Pickett: "I think the Rebels had something to do with it." Grant wasn't Grant during the Overland because he was facing Lee. And vice-versa. Both came close to smashing victories, but it wasn't meant to be.

    5. Hood owed his Army command to his friendship with Jeff Davis. As well as Davis antipathy to Joe Johnston and lack of other candidates besides Beauregard. I think Hardee refused the command?

    6. Pace Rhea, I think that while we can qualify and nuance the damning of Grant's performance at Cold Harbor, we can't retract it. It was a bloodbath, and it was reasonable to anticipate that it would be a bloodbath; and after he finally called it off, he waited a day before finally asking Lee for a truce to retrieve the wounded, most of which were dead by that point. And even Grant seemed to recognize it as one of his darkest moments - the one attack he most regretted after the war, by his own admission.

      Grant also has to take some responsibility for being ambuscaded in the Wilderness, where he and Meade ended up whipped even more soundly than Hooker had been at Chancellorsville just down the road one year before.

      That said, the Overland Campaign's essential result in generating a long stalemate rather than quick victory has to take account of not just a clunky command structure but some of the very poor generalship he had under him. Time and again opportunities were missed by dilatory or outright incompetent generals he was more or less stuck with. The quality level wasn't anything like what he had under him at Vicksburg or Chattanooga, even if the troops were just as brave.

  3. I'm always glad to see you posting more (even if not the circumstances leading to it, of course). You're one of my favorite writers.

  4. Here's the WaPo article with Skojec.

  5. I said the Pope is Rowan Williams 2.0. Even so, today I was disappointed in his cryptic references to abortion and gay marriage.