Archive for February, 2011

Another “Civil War” ??

by Andy Mateja

The current events is Wisconsin are starting to parallel events that occurred in our nation’s’ history  150 years ago

During the elections of 1860, Southern Democrats tried desperately to defeat the new Republican candidate – Abraham Lincoln, as they perceived he and his party were intent on ending the South’s “peculiar institution” called slavery .  While Lincoln never avowed that he would end slavery where it existed –only that he wanted to prevent its extension into future states. That did not matter to the Southern radicals …… was only their perception that counted.

When Lincoln won the election, the Southern radical leaders were outraged and began immediately to inflame their citizens as to how Lincoln and the Republicans were going to incite slave uprisings, seize property and change their way of life by force.  Again perception prevailed over reality as Lincoln repeated promised that as President he would do nothing to interfere with slavery where it existed.

Not willing to except the results of the November election, these radical leaders, through heated rhetoric , convinced state legislatures in seven Southern states  to “run away” from the U.S. Government and secede from the Union.  Four more would “run away” later.

They believed this drastic action would impose severe hardships on the many Northern states who rely on economic commerce with their Southern counterparts. The goal was to change the results of the Nov election by marginalizing Lincoln’s and the Republican Party’s political power in Washington by having Northern states pressure his administration into compromise.

However, Lincoln was adamant and refused to compromise, as he believed secession was illegal and a violation of the Constitution. The Southern response was to form their own government , elect its own  president and authorize armed militia in every state to repel Northern intrusion.  Several radical leaders even proposed that they invade Washington DC, oust Lincoln and put their own president in his place !   Obviously losing political dominance for the first time in the nation’s history did not sit well with Southern Democrats, who were willing to destroy the Union that the founding fathers fought so hard and risked their lives to create.

Lincoln believed it was his constitutional duty to preserve the Union and go after these rebellious states and bring them back into the Union.  However it was the Southern leaders that initiated the first act of violence which required a decisive response from Lincoln.

The result was Civil War –at a high cost…..a VERY HIGH COST.  In the end , Lincoln persevered and the “runaway” Southern states rejoined the Union.  However their initial perception became a self-fulfilling prophecy……….their “peculiar institution” of slavery was ended forever, their economic strength derived from slavery was obliterated  and their political influence that once dominated Washington DC  was  completely eradicated  for an entire generation.

It will be interesting how events play out in Wisconsin to see if history truly repeats itself……..

Lee’s Audacity On Display – Second Manassas

by Andy Mateja

Fresh off his triumphant victory over McClellan’s nearly invincible army on the outskirts of Richmond, Robert E Lee undertook a bold new gamble in his desire to change the dynamics of the Civil War in the East . 

Fully aware that Abraham Lincoln was amassing a new Federal Army just 80 miles north of where Lee was pushing  McClellan’s massive army , through continuous battle, away from Richmond , Lee wanted to neutralize that threat to his flank by turning the tables and hitting them first . This would have to be a delicate maneuver for Lee, as there was still a Union army in his front that was larger than his.  

After being confident that McClellan would remain idle and not move to attack, Lee dispatched Stonewall Jackson’s and Richard Ewell’s Divisions to block the new Union army under John Pope from striking at his rail supply line to the Shenandoah Valley. Later he sent A.P. Hill’s Division to reinforce Jackson’s force to 24,000 men while he remained in front of McClellan with 56,000 men, who at the time had almost twice as many men facing Lee. Lee nevertheless was determined to defeat Pope who was one of the few Union Generals Lee disliked , due to Pope’s continued threats against Lee’s fellow Virginians.

Lee then sent JEB Stuart’s Cavalry at Jackson’s request  and moved toward breaking up Pope’s forces before they could concentrate. Sweltering temperatures delayed Jackson’s march which allowed Pope to attack first at Cedar Mountain. The battle was a Confederate victory  mainly because it was one of the rare times they had more men on the field than the Northern army.  However it alerted Washington DC to the danger  and immediately sent orders to McClellan to withdraw from the Peninsula and join forces with Pope. When Lee learned of this he dispatched three more divisions under James  Longstreet . Two days later, Lee himself moved toward joining Jackson and Longstreet , intent on defeating Pope’s Union Army before McClellan arrived to reinforce him.

While Lee’s army advanced, Jeb Stuart’s Cavalry went on a raid to break Pope’s rail supply line. Stuart successfully rode around Pope’s right flank, cut the telegraph lines to Washington DC and captured Popes headquarters including his dress uniform, headquarters dispatch books and payroll money chests.  Lee decided to split his forces in the face of a powerful enemy and dispatch Jackson  around Popes flank and assist Stuart in cutting the Orange and Alexandria rail supply line and capturing the supplies. Longstreet’s forces were to remain to hold Pope’s army in place.  This was an audacious move, for if Pope learned that Lee divided his forces, Pope could defeat each one piecemeal.  However it was a desperate gamble Lee was prepared to take to prevent Pope and McClellan from joining forces. 

Jackson’s forces marched 54 miles in 40 hours and got in the rear of Popes army and moved toward Manassas Junction where Popes main supplies were located – only 30 miles from Washington DC.  Pope believed Jackson was marching back to the Shenandoah Valley and had no idea he was moving to his rear and about to cut the telegraph lines once again and destroy his entire base of supplies. By now McClellan’s men began to reach Popes army and Pope decided to move all his forces northeastward to keep his forces between Lee (Longstreet)  and Jackson . The Union forces had no idea that Jacksonhad already captured Manassas Junction. When Pope did finally realize Jacksonwas behind him at Manassas Junction, he moved quickly to defeat him before Lee could bring up the rest of his army. Pope expected to capture Stonewall Jackson and “bag the whole crowd”

Lee began to move Longstreet’s men to join up with Jackson but was concerned that Union forces might block the passes at Thoroughfare Gap and prevent his forces from joining. Jacksonhowever seized the initiative and attacked Pope’s army at Groveton. The fighting was fierce and casualties were heavy on both sides. The Union forces left the field in control of Stonewall Jackson. Pope however still believed that Jackson was cut off from Lee and that Pope could crush Jackson between two parts of his army.  Pope attacked Jackson the next day  and Jackson fought tenaciously against superior forces awaiting the arrival of Lee and Longstreet.  Longstreet did arrive later that day, as Union forces did not block Thoroughfare Gap as expected. Lee wanted to immediately counterattack when Longstreet arrived but Longstreet was not confident of success and wanted to reconnoiter first. Lee disappointed, still favored attack.  Lee performed his own reconnaissance and was convinced Longstreet should attack but Longstreet was obstinate and felt it was “too late in the day” for an all-out attack. Thanks to confused orders and the reluctance of McClellan’s generals to work effectively with Pope, Jackson’s forces was able to survive the days fighting while Longstreet’s troops sat idly by.

The next day Pope  still  believed his was the only Confederate force in the area.  Pope was also convinced Jackson was retreating !  Pope orders his troops to attack the “retreating” Jackson around mid-day.  Jackson was hit hard by the massive Union attack but held his ground. However hi men were running out of ammunition and some were now throwing rocks. Longstreet finally launched his flank attack with 28,000 fresh Confederate troops.  The surprised Pope could not organize enough troops to stop Longstreet and his army was effectively beaten.  He ordered a withdrawal at 8:00PM back to the defenses around Centerville. 

Lee had beaten the Union army badly , but had not destroyed it. He ordered his troops forward the next day to flank Popes remaining men and cut them off before they reached the safety of the Washington DC defenses. Mud and rain slowed them down and the action was resumed the next day. Pope’s troops avoided being flanked by Jackson again and made their last attack at Chantilly (24 miles from Washington DC ) in a driving rainstorm.  Afterwards the Union troops continued their retreat into Washington DC.

Robert E. Lee had won a great victory and moved the fighting from outside of Richmond to outside of Washington DC in less than 70 days. Rather than returning South , lee moved North to bring the war onto Union soil and change the course of the war for the remainder of the conflict.

Who else but Robert E Lee would have been so audacious ??