Archive for February, 2010

THE GREATNESS OF STONEWALL JACKSON

by Andy Mateja

“Move swiftly, strike vigorously and secure all the fruits of victory is the secret of successful war”
This was the winning formula that Stonewall Jackson used in his brilliant Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862 which set a pattern which he and Robert E Lee would later use to carve out a succession of victories that ended only with Chancellorsville when Jackson was accidently cut down in apex of his career.
Jackson practiced what he preached – not occasionally by ALWAYS. The fiery example he set for his men furnished the spark which inspired almost superhuman marches and overwhelming charges .
What was the secret of his strange power that his presence paralyzed Union generals who fell victim to his lightning strokes ? It had to have begun with the unprecedented success of his 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign
Stonewall Jackson achieved military greatness chiefly by his own effort in spite of physical and personal handicaps that would have overwhelmed a less determined character. He was knowledgeable of the teachings of Clausewitz and Jomini and particularly admired the military genius of Napoleon. Jackson modeled his own military character after Napoleon particularly in the inflexibility of purpose, implicit confidence in his own capacity, and complete indifference in what others thought of him.
The maxims of Stonewall Jackson were comprehensive in scope yet basic and fundamental for military success:
• Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy if possible.
• He would rather lose one man in marching than five in battle
• To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of victory
• Defensive campaigns can only be made successful by taking the aggressive at the proper time –strike before the enemy is prepared
• Never fight against heavy odds if by any possible maneuvering you can hurl your whole force on only a part, and that the weakest part of your enemy , and crush it
• When you strike your enemy and overcome him, never give up the pursuit as long as your men have strength to follow ; for an enemy routed, if hotly pursued, becomes panic-stricken and can be destroyed by half their number
His successful application of these principles was the secret of Jackson’s victories , demonstrated most effectively in his Shenandoah Valley campaign. This established Jackson in the South and the North alike as a general who had proven himself a master of warfare. The absolute confidence that he had earned from his men was based on what they learned by experience. They had repeatedly observed his fearlessness and coolness under fire, which in turn bolstered their confidence and had an incalculable effect on their own performance. They wholeheartedly believed Jackson’s first thought was for their welfare and were convinced he could do whatever he wanted even as he believed they would accomplish whatever he asked of them.
Like Robert E Lee, Jackson violated many of the principles of war at one time or another –not because of reckless disregard – but because he felt instinctively that the ineptness of his opponents would allow for audacious risk-taking. The result of his invariable victories proved Jackson was a master of the art of war where sometimes instinct trumps the book knowledge.
Imagine if Jackson had been with Lee at Gettysburg………………………………..

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The Man Who Kept the Union Together

by Andy Mateja

Today is the birthday of our 16th President –Abraham Lincoln.

Born in Kentucky, he was a man who came from humble beginnings without a formal education whose mother died while he was young. His father remarried and moved his family from Kentucky to Indiana and later to Illinois. Lincoln’s life was also filled with misery when the love of his life died and 3 of his 4 children with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln died during his lifetime.
While working on a flatbed boat from Cairo to New Orleans, Lincoln observed the transfer of slaves who were chained to one another. This left an indelible impression on him for the rest of his life and formed his anti-slavery convictions which he strongly expressed until the day he died. Lincoln served several terms in Congress but decided politics was not for him. However when the Kansas-Nebraska act passed in 1850, this changed his mind. He was angered that the law now overturned the original Missouri Compromise and allowed slavery into areas where it was formerly prohibited. Voters could decide whether they wanted it or not and of course pro-slavers seized on this opportunity and tried to “fix” the votes in Kansas.
Lincoln was not only outraged by the events but also by members of his own Whig Party who voted with Stephen A Douglas and other Democrats in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He drifted away from his party and become one of the founding members of the new Republican Party whose platform was in part to prevent further expansion of slavery with the long term goal of ending it altogether.
While Lincoln challenged Douglas for the Illinois Senate Seat in 1858, he lost the election but gained national prominence which propelled him to the White House in 1860. Southerners were vehemently opposed to Lincoln and to a lesser degree – Stephen A Douglas whom they felt was trying to appease both Northerners and Southerners. Southern Democrats supported a separate candidate for President while Northern Democrats supported Douglas. By splitting their party, Democrats inadvertently allowed Lincoln to win.
Before Lincoln was sworn in, seven Southern states seceded from the Union which led to the commencement of the Civil War where over 600,000 Americans died. Lincoln was in a quandary- he wanted to suppress the rebellion but did not want to take military action against fellow Americans. However Southerners fired the opening shots and the war began. Four other Southern states joined the new Confederacy and the war was waged in earnest. Lincoln did not want the war but it was thrust upon him.
His original goal was to stop the expansion of slavery and provide compensation to slave owners to emancipate their slaves. However the war changed everything. Lincoln’s strategy to win the war did not evolve until after the crushing Union defeat at Bull Run. He then decided it was necessary to literally “divide and conquer” the South to put down the rebellion. The naval blockade and the control of the Mississippi river were necessary to accomplish his goal. From a military standpoint, he wanted to wage a war attrition to overwhelm Southern resistance since the population of the North outnumbered the South almost 4-to-1. He needed to find a general who had the same viewpoint.
Since Lincoln was considered an uneducated backwoods “bumpkin” by many including his own ivy-league educated cabinet, several of them were going to outmaneuver Lincoln and actually run the government and relegate him to figurehead status. The self-taught Lincoln was grossly underestimated by these politicians and turned the tables on them –most notably Treasury Secretary Salmon Chase and the Secretary of State William Seward who realized they more than met their match with Lincoln.
Initially the war was waged to restore the Union, however Lincoln truly wanted to end slavery and drafted the Emancipation Proclamation to allow the rebellious Southern states one hundred days to return to the Union and discuss gradual emancipation or declare all slaves in the rebellious states under Union control to be forever free. Lincoln however needed a Union victory to announce the Emancipation Proclamation – which came in Sept 1862 at Antietam. The Emancipation Proclamation became effective January 1st 1863.
After many military setbacks Lincoln finally found his general – Ulysses S. Grant. Grant, like Lincoln realized the key to ultimate victory is to wear down the Southern armies through attrition. However the Northern people did not understand this and were appalled by the excessive casualty rates. “Copperhead” Democrats began to undermine Lincoln’s war effort and ran a “peace” candidate against him in 1864.Their goal was to offer peace to the South and allow them to return to the Union WITH slavery intact. Lincoln felt the political pressure against him was overwhelming due to military stalemates everywhere.
He also thought his efforts to get Congress to pass an amendment to abolish slavery would be ended as well if the Democrat was elected. What Lincoln needed was a major military victory to convince the voters that his strategy was succeeding. The “miracle” he was hoping for came in September 1864 with the fall of Atlanta and backed up later in October with major Union victories in the Shenandoah Valley.
Lincoln won reelection by a landslide and the Civil War was going to be won his way with the abolishment of slavery being the ultimate result. Lincoln saw the fruits of his efforts become reality in April 1865 when the Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to Grant. The remaining Southern armies all surrendered within the next few weeks.
Lincoln harbored no hated or ill feelings against the South and wanted to welcome them back into the Union without punishment and full reconciliation. Unfortunately an assassin’s bullet ended his life before he could see this happen. Lincoln’s lifelong dream was accomplished when Congress passed the 13th Amendment in June 1865 abolishing slavery forever.
Abraham Lincoln was a great man, leader and American Patriot

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