Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Mediterranean Campaign by Rick Atkinson




[ The tactical competence of the Allied Command in Sicily and Italy was bad. Coordination between the services- army, navy and air force- was poor and resulted in many deaths by friendly fire.  Supply services were chaotic. Landings at Salerno and Anzio poorly conceived and quickly bogged down  in defensive positions. The idiosyncratic personalities of the top generals got in the way of  sound thinking. Undue optimism, thin tolerance for self-criticism  and  under-estimation of the strength and capacity of the enemy  ruled the days.]


 The 608-day campaign to liberate Italy cost 312,000 Allied casualties, equivalent to 40 percent of Allied losses in the decisive campaign for northwest Europe that began at Normandy. Among the three-quarters of a million American troops to serve in Italy, total battle casualties would reach 120,000, including 23,501 killed.


German casualties in Italy remain uncertain, as they were in North Africa. Official U.S. Army history tallied 435,000, including 48,000 enemies killed and 214,000 missing, many of whom were never accounted for. Fifth Army alone reported 121,000 prisoners captured in the campaign. An OSS analysis of obituaries in seventy German newspapers found a steady increase in the number of seventeen- and eighteen-year-old war dead; moreover, by the late summer 1944, nearly one in ten Germans killed in action was said to be over thirty-eight years old.


As the war moved north, Italian refugees returned home to find their towns obliterated and their fields sown with land mines. The Pontine Marshes again became malarial, and nine out of ten acres around Anzio were no longer arable. The ten miles between Ortona and Orsogna held an estimated half million mines; those straggling home carried hepatitis, meningitis, and typhus.  Some who outlived the war died violently from mines, or while trying to disarm live shells to sell the copper and brass for scrap. Two young boys  were killed by a mine along the Rapido River on February 27, 1959.


[All the lessons of combat fatigue and the psychological consequences of killing learned in the Great War had to be relearned during the course of the Italian campaign, though no American soldier was executed for cowardice.]


Was the game worth the candle?


General Alexander thought so. "Any estimate of the value of the campaign must be expressed not in terms of the ground gain," he later wrote, "but in terms of its effect on the war as a whole." By his tally, when Rome fell six of Kesselring's nine "excellent mobile divisions had been severely mauled," and fifty-five German division "were tied down in the Mediterranean by the Allied threat, actual and potential." As the Combined Chiefs commanded, Italy had been knocked from the Axis coalition and hundreds of thousands of Hitler's troops had been "sucked into the vortex of defeat," in the glum phrase of a senior German general in Berlin. Churchill later wrote, "The principal task of our armies ad been to draw off and contain the greatest possible number of Germans. This had been admirably fulfilled."


Yet the Allied strategy seemed designed not to win but to endure. "There is  little doubt that Alexander fulfilled his strategic mission." General Jackson later observed, "[but]there is less certainty about the correctness of that mission." Two distinguished British military historians would voice similar skepticism.  John Keegan saw the campaign as "a strategic diversion on the maritime flank of a continental enemy," while Michael Howard believed the Mediterranean strategy reflected Churchill's desire to divert American combat power from the Pacific.  The British, Howard concluded, "never really knew where they were going in the Mediterranean."


Others would be even harsher. The Mediterranean was a "cul-de-sac," wrote the historian Corelli Barnett, "mere byplay in the conclusion of a war that had been won in mass battles of the Eastern and Western front."(There were 22 German divisions in Italy on June 6,1944; by comparison, 157 fought in the east on that day and almost 60 more in western Europe.) Another British eminence, F.F.C. Fuller, in 1948 would call Italy 'tactically the most absurd and strategically the most senseless campaign of the whole war."  B.H. Liddell Hart concluded that the Italian effort "subtracted very heavily" from Allied war resources, "a much larger subtraction from the total effort than the German had incurred by making a stand in Italy." And the American historian David M. Kennedy decried "a needlessly costly sideshow," a grinding war of attrition whose costs were justified by no defensible military or political purpose."


Even Kesselring, ever cheeky for a man who had lost both the battle and the war, would observe in September 1945 that Anglo-American commanders "appeared bound to their fix plans. Opportunities to strike at my flanks were overlooked or disregarded."  Although "German divisions of the highest fighting quality .  .  . were tied down in Italy at the time when they were urgently needed in the French costal areas," Kesselring later added, the Allies "utterly failed to seize their chances."


True enough, all of it, but perhaps not the whole truth. If "to advance is to conquer," in Fredrick the Great's adage, then the Allies continued in the Mediterranean, albeit slowly. When Rome fell, only eleven German U-boats still operated in the entire Mediterranean, and no Allied merchantman would be sunk there for the rest of the war; controlling the middle sea proved vital in liberating Europe, and in guaranteeing another route for Lend-Lease material to Russia via Persia. The bomber offensive continued apace from Italian fields that crept ever closer to the Rich; a sustained and ultimately fatal campaign against German oil production facilities included sic thousand Fifteenth Air Force sorties in the summer of 1944 that targeted vital refineries around Ploesti, Romania. As the historian Douglas Porch wrote, "One must not lose from view the Mediterranean's importance in breaking the offensive power of German arms, and forcing the Reich onto the defensive, after which any hope of victory eluded them."


Moreover, all criticism of the Italian strategy butts against an inconvenient riposte: if not Italy, where? "Events generate their own momentum, impose their own force, and exert their own influence on the will of men," wrote Martin Blumenson, who spent a lifetime pondering the Mediterranean campaign. We went into Sicily and Italy because we had been in Africa." No oceangoing fleet was available to move a half a million men from the African littoral to England, or anywhere else; nor could British ports, rails and other facilities, already overwhelmed by the American hordes staging for OVERLORD, have handled such a force. Moscow would not have tolerated an idling of Allied armies during the ten months between the conquest of Sicily and the Normandy invasion -a ten-month respite the Germans needed badly. "The Italian campaign," wrote the naval historian Samuel Eliot Morison, "was fought because it had to be fought."


Historical tautology may be suspect, and opportunism lacks the panache of grand strategy. From beginning to end, Allied war-making in the Mediterranean tended to be improvisational. The decision to continue pounding north after the capture of Rome remains especially difficult to justify. Yet the American commander-in-chief had grown comfortable with a campaign that in Italy more than in any other theater resembled the grinding inelegance of World War I. "Our war of attrition is doing its wok," Franklin Roosevelt had said a week after the invasion of Sicily, and he never renounced that strategy.


Certainly lessons learned in Sicily and southern Italy paid dividends later in the war, notably the expertise gained in complex amphibious operations and in fighting as a large, multinational coalition. [ ultimately the sheer material capacities of the Americans was the remedy for all their strategic and tactical shortcomings- JDS]. Many other lessons  were prosaic but sterling, such as the realization that the truck hauling ammunition to the front was no less vital than the gun firing it.


For the U.S. Army, which would shoulder the heaviest burden in western Europe for the balance of the war, there was also the priceless conviction that American soldiers could slug it out with the best German troops, division by division,  and prevail.


[ Exploiting a hitherto unrecognized gap in the German lines, Major General Fred I. Walker's thrust across Monte Artemismo, coming up in the  rear of the enemy's  last redoubt before Rome was an exception to the  usual tactical blunderings of the Allied forces.  Previously, after the attack across the Rapido river turned into a debacle, this disaffected commander had written that "The stupidity of some higher commanders seems to be profound." The gallantry and sacrifice of Polish battalions in finally seizing  Monte Cassino was unsurpassed.]



On Governing an Insula by Don Quixote



Just then Don Quixote came in, and learning what had happened and how quickly Sancho Panza was to leave for his governorship, with permission of the duke he took Sancho by the hand and went with him to his room, intending to advise him on how he was to behave as governor.


When they had entered his bedchamber, Don Quixote closed the door behind him and almost forced Sancho to sit down beside him, and in a tranquil voice he said:


"I give infinite thanks to heaven, Sancho my friend, that before and prior to my having found good luck, Fortune has come out to welcome and receive you. I, who had set aside a portion of my success as payment for your services, find myself at the very beginning of my advancement, and you, before it is time and contrary to the law of reasonable discourse, find yourself rewarded with all your desires. Others bribe, importune, solicit, are early risers, plead, persist, and do not achieve what they long for, and another comes along and without knowing how or why finds himself with the office and position that many others strove for: and here the saying certainly applies and is appropriate: aspirations are ruled by good and bad fortune. You, who in my opinion are undoubtedly a dolt, and who, without rising early or staying up late or making any effort whatsoever, with nothing more than the breath of knight errantry that has touched you, without further ado find yourself governor of an insula as if it were of no consequence. I say all this, O Sancho, so that you do not attribute the kindness you have received to your own merits, but give thanks first to heaven for disposing matters so sweetly, and then to the greatness that lies in the profession of knight errantry.


Now, with your heart disposed to believe what I told you, pay heed, my son, to your Cato, who wishes to advise you and be a polestar and guide that sets your course and leads you to a safe port on the tempestuous sea where you are about to set sail, for offices and great responsibilities are nothing more than a deep gulf of confusions.


First, my son, you must fear God, because in fearing Him lies wisdom, and if you are wise, you cannot err in anything. Second, you must look at who you are and make an effort to know yourself, which is the most difficult knowledge one can imagine. When you know yourself, you will not puff yourself up like the frog who wanted to be the equal of the ox, and if you can do this, the fact that you kept pigs at home will be like the ugly feet beneath the peacock's tail of your foolishness."

"It's true," responded Sancho, "but that's when I was a boy; later, when I was a little older, it was geese that I kept, not pigs. But this seems beside the point; not everybody who governs comes from the lineage of kings."


"That is true," replied Don Quixote, "and for that reason those who are not of noble origin should bring to the gravity of the position they hold a gentle mildness which, guided by prudence, may save them from the malicious gossip that no station in life can escape. Take pride in the humbleness of your lineage, and do not distain to say that you come from peasants, for seeing that you are not ashamed of it, no one will attempt to shame you; take more pride in being a humble virtuous man than in being a noble sinner. Innumerable men born of low family have risen to the highest pontifical and imperial dignity, and I could cite so many examples of his truth that you would grow weary.


Consider, Sancho, if you take virtue as your means, and pride in performing virtuous deeds, there is no reason to envy the means of princes and lords, because blood is inherited, and virtue is acquired, and virtue in an of itself has a value that blood does not. This being so, as it is, if one of your relatives comes to see you while you are on your insula, do not scorn or insult him; on the contrary, you should welcome, receive, and entertain him; in this way you will satisfy heaven, which does not wish anyone to scorn what it has created, and you will respond as you should to a well-ordered nature. If you bring your wife with you (because it is not a good idea for those who attend to governing for a long time to be without their own spouses), teach her, instruct her, and smooth away her natural roughness, because everything a wise governor acquires can be lost and wasted by a crude and foolish wife. If by chance you are widowed, which is something that can happen, and with your position you wish a better wife, do not take one to serve as your lure and fishing rod, and the hood for your I don't want it; because it is true when I tell you that for everything received by the judge's wife her husband will be accountable at the universal reckoning, when he will pay four times over in death for the ledger entries he ignored in life.



Never be guided by arbitrariness in law, which tends to have a good deal of influence on ignorant men who take pride in being clever. Let the tears of the poor find in you more compassion, but not more justice, than the briefs of the wealthy. Try to discover the truth in all the promises and gifts of the rich man, as well as in the poor man's sobs and entreaties. When there can and should be a place for impartiality, do not bring the entire vigor of the law the bear on the offender, for the reputation of the harsh judge is not better than that of the compassionate one. If you happen to bend the staff of justice, let it be with the weight not of a gift, but of mercy. If you judge the case of one of your enemies, put your injury out of your mind and turn your thoughts to the truth of the question.  Do not be blinded by your own passion in another's trial, for most of the time the mistakes you make cannot be remedied, and if they can, it will be to the detriment of your good name and even your fortune.  If a beautiful woman comes to you to plead for justice, turn your eyes from her tears and your ear from her sobs, and consider without haste the substance of what she is asking if you do not want your reason to be drowned in her weeping and your goodness in her sighs. If you must punish a man with deeds, do not abuse him with words, for the pain of punishment is enough for the unfortunate man without the addition of malicious speech. Consider the culprit who falls under your jurisdiction as a fallen man subject to the conditions of our depraved nature, and to the extent that you can, without doing injury to the opposing party, show him compassion and clemency, because although all the attributes of God are equal, in  our view mercy is more brilliant and splendid than justice.


If you follow these precepts and rules, Sancho, your days will be long, your fame eternal, your rewards overflowing, your joy indescribable; you will marry your children as you wish, they and their grandchildren will have titles, you will live in peace and harmony with all people, and in the final moments of your life, in a gentle and ripe old age ,the moment of your death will come and the tender, delicate hands of your great-grandchildren will close your eyes. What I have said to you so far are the teachings that will adorn your soul; now listen to the ones that will serve to adorn your body.  .  ."



Saturday, August 27, 2016

Grim Thoughts for a Cloudless Day by Patrick Fermor




[Patrick Fermor hiked the length of the Danube when he was 17 in1934. The first of his memoirs of this journey was published in 1977]


A falcon, beating its  wings above an unwary heron half way up the northern bend, would command the same view of the river as mine.*  I had climbed to the ruins of Aggstein unnecessarily  steeply, as I had strayed from the marked pathway- and halted among the battlements of the keep to get my breath back. This gap-toothed hold of the Kunringers teems with horrible tales; but I scrambled up there for a different reason. The polymath's talk,  two nights before, had made me long to look down this particular reach.


There is nothing more absorbing than maps of tribal wanderings. How vaguely and slowly nations float about! Lonely as clouds, overlapping and changing places, they waltz and reverse round each other at a pace so slow as to be almost stationary or work their expanding way across the map as imperceptibly as damp or mildew. What a relief it is when some outside event, with an actual date attached to it, jerks the whole sluggishly creeping osmotic complex into action!

As I mentioned earlier  that we- or rather, the polymath - had talked about the Marcomanni and the Quadi** who had lived north of the river here about. The habitat of the Marcommani lay a little further west; the Quadi dwelt exactly where we were sitting. "Yes." he had said, "things were more or less static for a while. .  ." He illustrated this with a pencil-stub on the back of the Neuse Freie Presse.  A long sweep represented the Danube; a row of buns indicated  the races that had settled along the banks; then he filled in the outlines of eastern Europe. " .  .  . and suddenly, at last", he said, "something happens!" An enormous arrow enters the picture on the right, and bore down on the riverside buns. "The Huns arrive! Everything starts changing place at full speed!" His pencil leaped feverishly into action. The buns put forth their own arrows of migration and began coiling sinuously about the paper till Mitteleuropea and the Balkans were alive with demon's tails. "Chaos! The Visigoths take shelter south of the lower Danube, and defeat the Emperor Valens at Adrianople, here!", he twisted the lead on the paper - "in 476. Then - in only a couple of decades" - a great  loop of pencil swept round the tip of the Adriatic and  descended a swiftly-outlined Italy - the pace of his delivery reminded me of a sports commentator  - "we get Alaric! Rome is captured!  The Empire splits in two -" West totters on for half a century or so. But the Visigoths are headed westward," an arrow curved to the left and looped into France, which rapidly took shape, followed by the Iberian peninsula. "Go West, young Goth!, " he murmured as his pencil threw off the  Visigoth kingdoms across France and Spain at dizzy speed, "There we are!" he said; then, as an afterthought, he absentmindedly penciled in an oval across northern Portugal and Galicia, and I asked him what it was.  "The Suevi, same as the Swabians, more or less: part of the whole movement. But now," he went on, "here go the Vandals!"  A few vague lines from what looked like Slovakia ad Hungary joined together and then swept west in a broad bar that mounted the Danube and advanced into Germany.. "Over the Rhine in 406; then clean across Gaul - " here the speed of his pencil tore a ragged furrow across the paper "- through the Pyrenees three years later - here they come! then down into Andalusia - hence the name - and hop! -" the pencil skipped the imaginary straits of Gibraltar and began rippling eastwards again "- along the north African coast to" - he improvised the coast as he went, then stopped with a large black blob - "Carthage! And all in thirty-three years from start to finish!"


His pencil got busy again,  I asked him the meaning of all the dotted lines he had started sending out from Carthage into the Mediterranean. "Those are Genseric's fleets, making a nuisance of themselves. Here he goes, sacking Rome in 455! There was lots of sea activity  just about then." Swooping to the top of the sheet, he drew a coast, a river's mouth and a peninsula: "That's the Elbe, there's Jutland." Then, right away in the left hand corner, an acute angle appeared, and above it, a curve like an ample rump; Kent and East Anglia, I was told. In a moment, from the Elbe's mouth, showers of dots were curving down on them. "- and there go your ancestors, the first Angles and Saxons, pouring into Britain only a couple of years before Genseric sacked Rome." Close to the Saxon shore, he inserted two tadpole figures among the invading dots: What were they? Hengist and Horsa," he said, and refilled our glasses.


This was the way to be taught history! It was just about now that a second bottle of Langenlois appeared. His survey had only taken about five minutes; but we had left the Marcommani and the Quadi far behind.  .  . The polymath laughed. "I forgot about them in the excitement! There's no problem about the Marcommani," he said. "They crossed the river and became Bayuvars - and the Bayuvars are the Bavarians - I've got a Markoman grandmother. But the Quadi! There are plenty of mentions of them in Roman history. Then, all of a sudden - none! They vanished just  .  .  ."about the time Vandals drive westward.  .  ." They probably went along with them too, he explained, as part of the slipstream . .  . "A whole nation shimmering upstream like elvers -not that there are any eels in the Danube," he interrupted himself parenthetically, on a different note. "Not native ones, unfortunately: only visitors - suddenly, the forests are empty. But, as nature hates a vacuum, not for long. A new swarm takes their place. Enter the Rugii, all the way from southern Sweden!" There was no room on the Neue Freie Presse, so he shifted a glass and drew the tip of Scandinavia on the scrubbed table top. "This is the Baltic Sea, and here they come." A diagram like the descent of a jellyfish illustrated their itinerary. By the middle the fifth century they were  all settled along the left bank of the Middle Danube  - if 'settled' is the word - they were all such fidgets. I'd never heard of the Rugii. "But  expect you've heard of Odoaker? He was a Rugian." The name, pronounced in the German way, did suggest something. There were hints of historical twilight in the syllables, something momentous and gloomy .  .  . but what? Inklings began to flicker.



Hence my ascent to this ruin. For it was Odoacer, the first barbarian king after the eclipse of the last Roman Emperor. ("Romulus Augustulus!" the polymath said.  What a name! Poor chap, he was very good looking, it seems, and only sixteen." )


Behind the little town of Aggsbach Markt on the other bank, the woods which had once teemed with Rugians rippled away in a fleece of tree-tops. Odoacer came from a point on the north bank only ten miles downstream. He dressed in skins, but he may have been a chieftain's son, even a king's son. He enlisted as a legionary, and at the age of forty-two he was at the head of a winning immigrant clique in control of the Empire's ruins, and finally King. After the preceding imperial phantoms, his fourteen years' reign seemed - humiliating to the Romans - an improvement.  It was not a sudden night at all, but an afterglow, rather, of  a faintly lighter hue and lit with glimmers of good government and even of justice. When Theodoric replaced him (by slicing him in half with a broadsword from the collar-bone to the loins at a banquet in Ravenna) it was still not absolutely the end of Roman civilization. Not quite; for the great Ostrogoth was the patron of Cassiodorus and of Boethius, "the last of the Romans whom Cato or Tully could have acknowledged for their countryman." But he slew them both and then died of remorse; and the Dark Ages has come, with nothing but candles and plainsong left to lighten the shadows. "Back to the start," as the polymath had put it "and lose ten centuries."


Grim thoughts for a cloudless morning.






*the Danube just above Vienna
 **Those long-haired Wottan-worshippers, who peered for centuries between the tree-boles, while legionaries drilled  and formed tortoise on the other bank.





Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tax Reform in the Reign of Louis XIV by Saint-Simon




1707

Vauban, surnamed Le Prestre, was a gentleman , of Burgundy, no more, but perhaps the most honorable and upright man of his day. What is more, although he had a reputation for being more skilled and learned in the art of siege-warfare than any other engineer, he was the simplest, truest, and most modest of men. He was medium tall, somewhat stocky in build, very soldierly in his bearing, but with a loutish, not to say coarse and brutal appearance that totally belied his character, for there never was a man better natured, gentler, nor more obliging.  He was courteous without servility, almost  miserly with the lives of his soldiers, and possessed the kind of valor that beats every burden and lets others enjoy the credit. When, in 1703, the King informed him of his intention to make him Marechal of France, Vauban begged him first to reflect that that honor was never intended for men of his condition who could not command the King's army. [1] It might be embarrassing, he said, if the marshal in command at a siege were found to be his junior in rank. This generous objection, supported with such manifestly unselfish arguments, only increased the King's desire to advance him.  At that time Vauban had already laid fifty-three sieges, twenty of them in the King's presence, and thus King Louis could feel that after a fashion he was making a marshal of himself and gilding his own laurels. Vauban received the rank with a modesty equal to his previous unselfishness, and one and all acclaimed a most signal honor to which no other man of his condition was ever raised before or since. Such was he when he was elevated to be a Marechal de France. You shall see now how he was brought broken-hearted to his grave for the very qualities that had earned him his laurels, and that, in any country but France, would won for him honors of every other kind.


A patriot in the true  sense, [2] he had always been moved by the suffering of the peasants under the disproportionate burden of taxation.[3] His professional experience had taught him the need for government spending and the little likelihood that the King would consent to retrench in his pleasures or his pomps. He therefore despaired of their being any alleviation of their ever-increasing afflictions. With such considerations in mind he never made a journey (and he continually crossed and re-crossed the country from end to end) without making precise records of the values and yield of the lands, the trades and industries in the various provinces and towns, the nature of the taxes and the methods of collections. Not only that, he sent secret agents travelling throughout the entire kingdom so as to compare their assessments with his own. He devoted at least twenty years to that research and spent on it large sums from his own purse.  In the process he gradually became convinced that the only sure source of wealth was the land, and accordingly began to evolve an entirely new system of taxation. When his work was already far advanced  there appeared several booklets under the authorship of Boisguibert, the military governor of Rouen, who had been working on the same idea for some years. Vauban read these with interest and resolved to support the author by revising and correcting his work for him and adding some final touches of his own.  The two men were in complete agreement in principle, but not in every detail; for example, Boisguibert was chiefly anxious to remove the most onerous taxes and above all the huge charges levied by the collectors which sums did not enter the King's coffers but impoverished the peasants solely for the enrichment of the tax-farmers and their agents, who made vast fortunes in that way, even as they do today.



Vauban, on the other hand, attacked the system itself. He proposed abolishing levies of every kind and substituting in their place a single tax, divided into two parts, the first part to be on the ownership of land rated at one-tenth of its yield; the second, at a somewhat lower rate, on commerce and industry, which he thought should be encouraged, and certainly not hindered. This single tax he wished to call the King's tithe. At the same time he suggested certain just and simple rules for its collection, based on the value of each parcel of land and the number of the local population ( so far as that could be estimated with any accuracy). Vauban's book when it finally appeared  was everywhere acclaimed, and those best able to understand his calculations expressed admiration for its soundness and clarity. But the plan had one incurable defect. It produced more wealth for the King than he had received by the older methods; it relieved the peasants from ruin and oppression, and left them richer by all that did not go to him; but at the same time it destroyed the army of financiers, agents, and petty officials of many different kinds, obliging them to live by their own labors and not at public expense, and sapping the very foundation of those vast fortunes which we have seen amassed with such incredible rapidity.


That in itself was enough to condemn the book; but Vauban's real offense was that his plan attacked the authority of the controller-general himself, his influence, wealth, and immense power, together with an army of intendants, secretaries, agents, and underlings, leaving them incapable of favoring or harming anyone. It is scarcely to be wondered at that with the interests of so many powerful individuals involved there should have arisen a conspiracy to defeat a new system, however beneficial to the State, the King, and the people.  Moreover the whole legal profession rose up in revolt, for it is the magistrates who administer taxes by means of their agents in every department of government.** No doubt it was family loyalty that roused the Dukes of Chevreuse and Beauvilliers to protest, for they were the sons-in-law of M. Colbert, whose motives and methods were far removed from those advocated by Vauban. They were further misled by Desmaretz's clever, specious arguments, and Chamillart, so kind-hearted, so anxious for the public good, also fell beneath his spell. As for the Chancellor, remembering a time when he, too, had controlled the finances, he flew into a rage. In short, only those who were without influence or private interests supported Vauban, and by those I mean the Church and the nobility, for the people themselves, who stood to gain so much, never realized how close they had come to deliverance which only good citizens lamented.


Thus it came as no surprise when the King, sheltered and prejudiced as he was, gave the marachel a frigid reception on accepting his book; you may well imagine that the ministers were no better pleased when they received their copies.  From that moment onwards Vauban's past services, his military genius, his virtues, and the King's regard counted as nothing, and thenceforward he was viewed as being no better than a lunatic lover of the peasantry, a scoundrel bent on undermining the power of the ministers and consequently the authority of the King himself. King Louis said as much to his face, and he did not mince his words Those words were echoed by all that part of the nation who had thought themselves attacked and wished to be revenged, and the unhappy Vauban, who was loved by all right-thinking Frenchmen, did not long survive the loss of his master's favor. He died in solitude a few months later, wasted by grief and in distress of mind to which King Louis appeared solely insensible, even to the point of seeming unmoved by the death of one by the death of one who had been a distinguished and most useful servant. Vauban's fame,  however, had spread throughout Europe, even the enemy revered his name, and in France itself he was sincerely mourned by all those who were neither tax-farmers nor their agents.


To do Chamillart justice, despite his disapproval of Vauban, he was willing to give his system a trial, but most unfortunately he chose for that purpose a district near Chartres in the intendancy of Orleans, where Bouville, who married Desmaretz's daughter, was in charge. She had friends who owned estates in that neighborhood and procured tax-relief for their farmers, which was enough to wreck the whole experiment, depending as it did on fair and accurate assessments. Thus all Chamillart's good intentions turned sour and gave fresh ammunition to the enemies of the new system.


Vauban's entire work was accordingly condemned; but the proposal for a King's tithe was not forgotten, and some years later it was levied, not as a new and comprehensive tax, according to Vauban's plan, but on all kinds of possessions, over and above the existing taxes. It has been renewed whenever there has been a war, and even in peace-time the King always retains it on all appointments, salaries, and pensions. That is why in France one must beware of even the wisest and most salutary intentions, and why all the nation's sources of wealth are running dry. Yet who could have warned the Marechal de Vauban that his great efforts to relieve all the inhabitants of France would serve only to add to their burden a new and supplementary tax, more permanent, harsher, and more costly than all the rest put together?  Such a terrible lesson is enough to discourage the wisest proposals in the field of taxation and finance.






[1] He was not of noble rank, but apart from that, he had no experience of commanding troops in battle.

[2] Saint-Simon is supposed to have invented the word patriot.

[3] The peasants and the very poor paid the full amount of the taxes. Nobles, landowners, clergy, and the officials of all the kinds had dispensations and reliefs on various pretexts.




Saturday, August 13, 2016

Interviews on Red Square in December 1991 by Svetlana Alexievich



[August 1991: A group of eight high-ranking officials led by Gorbachev's vice president, Gennady Yanayev, form the General Committee on the State Emergency, the GKChP, and stage an attempted coup of the government. It becomes known as "the putsch." The GKChP issues an emergency decree suspending all political  activity, banning most newspapers, and putting Gorbachev, who is on hold in Foros, Crimea, under house arrest.

Thousands of protestors came out to stand against putsch in front of the White House, the Russian Federation's parliament and office Boris Yeltsin, building barricades to protect their position. Yeltsin famously addresses the crowd from atop a tank. The Army forces dispatched  by the GKChP ultimately refuse to storm the barricades and side with the protestors. After three days, the putsch collapses. On August 24, Gorbachev dissolves the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and resigns as its general secretary.

January 1992: The liberalization of prices leads to massive, destabilizing inflation, from 200 percent initially to high of 2600. .  .]




I'm a construction worker.  .  .


Before August 1991, we lived in one country, and afterward, we lived in another. Before that August, my country was called the USSR.

Who am I? I am one of those idiots who defended Yeltsin. I stood in front of the White House, ready to lie down in front of a tank. People went out on the streets on the crest of a wave, on a surge. But they were out there to die for freedom, not capitalism. I consider myself a person who has been deceived. I don't need this capitalism we've been led to . . . that they slipped us. . . Not in any form, neither the American model nor the Swedish. I didn't start a revolution to get my hands on someone else's dough. We shouted "Russia!" instead of "USSR!". I'm sorry that they didn't disperse us with water cannons or roll a couple of machine guns into the square. They should have arrested two or three hundred people and the rest would have gone into hiding. Where are the people who called us out into the square today? "Down with the Kremlin mafia!" "Freedom tomorrow!" They have nothing to say to us. They ran off to the West, now they are over there badmouthing socialism. sitting around in Chicago laboratories. While we sit here. . .

Russia .  .  . they've wiped their feet with it. Anyone who wants to can smack her in the face. They turned it into a Western junkyard full of worn-out rags and expired machines. Garbage! [Obscenities.] A trough full of raw materials, a natural gas tap.  .  . The Soviet regime? It wasn't ideal, but it was better than we have today. Worthier. Overall, I was satisfied with socialism . No one was excessively rich or poor,   there were no bums or abandoned children . . . Old  people could live on their pensions, they didn't have to collect bottles and food scraps off the street. They wouldn't look at you with searching eyes, standing there with outstretched palms .  .   .   We've yet to count how many people were killed by perestroika. Our former life has been smashed to smithereens, not a single stone was left standing. Pretty soon, I won't have anything to talk about with my son. "Papa, Pavlik Morozov is a moron. Marat Kazei (Soviet heroes) is a freak," my son says to me, when he comes home from school. "But you taught me .  .  ."  I taught him the same things I had been taught, the right things. "That horrible Soviet upbringing .  .  ." That "horrible Soviet upbringing" taught me to think about people other than myself. About the weak and suffering. Nikolai Gastello (first suicide pilot) was my hero, not those magenta sports coats with their philosophy of only looking out for themselves - their own skin, their own wallets. "And please, Papa, don't start in with that spirit stuff, that humanism mumbo jumbo." Where did he pick that up? People are different now .  .  . Capitalists .  .  . You have to understand, that's what he learns from the world, he's twelve years old. I'm not an example for him anymore.


Why did I defend Yeltsin? He won a million supporters just for saying that the nomenklatura's special privileges should be revoked. I was ready to pickup a machine gun and shoot at the communists. I  was convinced.  .  . We didn't understand what they were preparing for us in its place. What they were slipping us. An enormous lie! Yeltsin spoke out against the Reds and signed up with the Whites. It was a calamity .  .  . The question: What did we want? Gentle socialism, humane socialism .  .  .And what did we get? On the streets, its blood-thirsty capitalism. Shooting. Showdowns. People figuring out who runs the kiosk and who own the factory. The gangsters have risen to the top . . . Black marketeers and money changers have taken power.  .  . Enemies and predators all around. Jackals!

I can't forget .  .  . I can't forget how we stood in front of the White House .  .  .Whose chestnuts were we pulling from the fire? [Obscenities.] My father was a real communist. A righteous man. He was a Party organizer at a big factory. Fought in the war. I said to him, "Freedom here! We're going to be a normal, civilized country.  .  ." And he replied, "Your children will be servants. Is that what you really want?" I was young and dumb .  .  . I laughed at him. We were terribly naive. I don't know why things turned out like this. I really don't. It's not what we wanted. We had something completely different in mind. Perestroika .  .  . there was something epic about it. A year later, they shut down our design bureau, and my wife and I ended up out on the street. How did we survive? First we took all our valuables to the market. The crystal, the Soviet old, and our most precious books. For weeks on end, we'd eat nothing but mashed potatoes. Then I went into "business". I started selling cigarette butts. A liter jar of butts .  .  . or a three-liter jar of butts .  .  . My wife's parents (college professors) collected them off the street, and I would sell them. And people would buy them! Smoke them. I smoked them myself. My wife cleaned offices. At a certain point, she sold pelmeni for some Tajik. We paid dearly for our naivete.  All of us .  .  . Now, my wife and I raise chickens, and she never stops weeping. If we could only turn back time .  .  . And don't give me a hard time for saying that .  .  . This isn't some nostalgia for gray salami for two rubles and twenty kopecks . . .

'The market became our university. .  .'


I went to the university . . . At that point, Chubais was lobbying for privatization vouchers, promising one voucher would buy you two Volgas when in reality, these days, it's worth about two kopecks. What an exciting time! I handed out flyers in the subway .  .  . Everyone dreamed of a new life .  .  . Dreams .  .  . People dreamt that tons of salami would appear at the stores at Soviet prices and members of the Politburo would stand in line with the rest of us. Salami is the benchmark of our existence. Our love of salami is existential.  .  .Twilight of the idols! The factories to the workers! The soil to the peasants! The rivers to the beavers! The dens to the bears! Mexican soap operas were the perfect replacement for Soviet parades and live broadcasts of the First Congress of People's Deputies. I stayed in college for two years and then dropped out. I feel sorry for my parents because they were told flat out that they were pathetic sovoks* whose lives had been wasted for less than a sniff of tobacco, that everything was their fault, beginning with Noah's Ark, and that now, no one needed them anymore. Imagine working that hard, your whole life, only to end up with nothing. All of it shook the ground from underneath them, their world was shattered; they still haven't recovered, they couldn't assimilate into the drastically new reality. My younger brother would wash cars after class, selling chewing gum and other junk in the subway, and he made more money than our father - our father who was a scientist. A PhD! The Soviet elite! When they started selling salami at the privately owned stores, all of us ran over to ogle it. And that was when we saw the prices! This was how capitalism came into our lives.


I got a job as a freight handler. Real happiness! My friend and I would unload a truck of sugar and get paid in cash plus a sack of sugar each. What was a sack of sugar in the nineties? An entire subsistence! Money! Money!. The beginning of capitalism .  .  . You could become a millionaire overnight or get a bullet to the head. When they talk about it today, they try to frighten you: There could have been a civil war, we were teetered on the edge of ruin! It didn't feel like that to me. I remember when the streets emptied out and there was nobody left on the barricades. People stopped subscribing to  or even reading the newspapers. The men hanging out in the courtyard berated Gorbachev and the Yeltsin for hiking up the vodka prices.  They'd gone after the golden calf! Wild, inexplicable avarice took hold of everyone. The smell of money filled the air. Big money. And absolute freedom - no Party, no government. Everyone wanted to make some dough, and those who didn't  know how envied those who did. Some sold, others bought .  .  . Some "covered," others "protected". When I made my first "big bucks," I took my friends out to a restaurant. We ordered Martini vermouth and Grand Piano vodka - the creme de la creme! I wanted to feel the weight of the glass in my hand, imagine that I was one of the beautiful people. We lit up Marlboros. Everything was just like we'd read about in Remarque. For a longtime, we modeled ourselves after those images. New stores, new restaurants .  .  . They were like stage sets from a different life .  .   .

.  .  . I sold fried hot dogs. Those brought in crazy money .  .  .

.  .  . I shipped vodka to Turkmenistan .  .  . I spent a whole week in a sealed freight car with my business partner.  We had our axes ready, plus a crowbar. If they found out what we were bringing into the country they would have killed us! On the way back, we carted a shipment of terrycloth towels.  .  .

I  sold toys. One time I sold off an entire lot wholesale for a truckload of carbonated beverages, traded that for a shipping container of sunflower seeds, and then, at a butter plant, traded it all in for butter, sold half of the butter, and traded the other half for frying pans and irons .  .  .



Now I have a flower business. I learned how to 'salt' roses: you put heat-treated salt at the bottom of a cardboard box - you need a layer at least a centimeter thick - and then you put half-blossomed flowers into it and pour some more salt on top of them. You put a lid on the box and put it all in a big plastic bag. Tie it up tight. Then, a month or a year later, you take them out, wash them off .  .  . Come by any day. Here's my card .  .  .


The market became our university .  .  . Maybe it's going too far to call it a university, but an elementary school for life, definitely. People  would visit like they were going to a museum. Or to the library. Boys and girl stumbled around with crazed expressions, like zombies among the stalls .  .  . A couple stops in front of some Chinese epilators, and she explains the importance of epilation : "Don't you want that? For me to be like .  .  ." I don't remember the name of the actress  .  .  . Say Marina Vlasy or Catherine Deneuve. Millions of little boxes and jars. People who bring them home as though they were sacred texts, and, after using their contents, they wouldn't throw them out, they'd display them in the a place of honor on their bookshelves, or put them in their china cabinets behind glass.  People read the first glossy magazines as though they were classics, with the reverent faith that behind the cover, directly under the packaging, you'd find the beautiful life. There were kilometer-long queues outside the first McDonald's, stories about it in the news. Educated, intelligent adults saved boxes and napkins from there and would proudly show them off to guests.


I have this good friend . . . His wife slaves away at two jobs, while he has too much pride to work: "I'm a poet. I am not about you go out and sell pots and pans. It's gross." Back in the day, he and I, like everyone else, would walk about chanting, "Democracy! Democracy!" We had no idea what all that would lead to. No one was itching to sell pots and pans. And now, there's no choice: You either feed your family or you hang on to your sovok ideals. You either/or, no other options .  .  . You can write poems, strum the guitar, and people will pat you on the shoulder: "Well, go on! Go On! But your pockets are empty. The people who left? They sell pots and pans and deliver pizza, but in other countries .  .  . Assemble boxes at cardboard factories .  .  . That kind of thing is not considered shameful like it is here.


Did you understand what I've trying to tell you? I've been talking about Igor  .  .  . About our lost generation - a communist upbringing and a capitalist life. I hate guitars! You can have mine if you want.




*sovoks: a widely used pejorative term for one who adheres to Soviet values, attitudes and behaviors. The word can refer to the Soviet Union itself. It is a pun on the word for "dustpan."



Notes From An Everywoman



What's there to remember? I live the same way as everyone else. Perestroika.  .  . Gorbachev  .  .  . The postmistress opened the gate: "Did you hear? The Communists are out." "What do you mean?" "They shut down the Party." No shots fired, nothing. These days they say we used to have a mighty fortress and then we lost it. But what have I really lost? I've always lived in the same little house without any amenities - no running water, no plumbing, no gas - and I still do today. My whole life, I've done honest work. I toiled and toiled, got used to backbreaking labor. And only earned kopecks. All I had to eat was macaroni and potatoes, and that's all I eat today. I'm still going around in my Soviet fur - and you should see the snows out here!


The best thing I can remember is getting married. We were in love. I remember walking home from the marriage  registration bureau, the lilacs in bloom. The lilacs! If you an believe it, there were nightingales singing in their branches .  .  . That's how I remember it .  .  . We lived happily for a few years, we had a daughter .  .  . Then Vadik started drinking, and the vodka ended up killing him. He died young, he was only forty-two. Ever since, I've lived alone. My daughter is all grown up, she got married and moved away.


In the winter, we always get snowed in, the whole village is blanketed in snow the houses and the cars. Sometimes, the buses won't run for weeks on end. What's going on out there in the capital?   It's a thousand kilometers from here to Moscow. We watched Moscow life unfold on TV like it's a movie. I've heard of Putin and Alla Pugacheva .  .  . The rest, I know nothing about.  Rallies, demonstrators .  .  . Out here, we live the same way we've always lived. Whether it's socialism or capitalism. Who's Red, who's White - it makes no difference. The important thing is to make it to spring. Plant potatoes .  .  . I'm sixty years old .  .  . I don't go to church, but I do need someone to talk to. To talk about other things .  .  . about how I don't feel like getting old, I have no desire to get old at all. I'll be too bad when it comes time to die. Have you seen my lilacs? I go out at night to look at them - they glow. I'll just stand there admiring them. Here, let me cut you a bouquet .  .  .






Secondhand Time; The Last of the Soviets, by Svetlana Alexievich; Random House, 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Munsee Massacre of 1644 by Missy Wolfe



The Dutch launched a number of forays against the Indians in 1643 and 1644 from Tomac Cove in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, which were described in unique documents that the New York State Secretary John Brodhead retrieved from The Hague in the early 1800s.One of these actions resulted in what might have been the largest massacre of Native Americans in the Northeast, surpassing some of the estimates given for the hundreds that were killed in Mystic by John Underhill and John Mason some seven years before.


New Netherland's legacy is that every aspect of the Dutch experience in America provides a useful lesson in the perils of nation-building. When it became clear that New Amsterdam no longer functioned as a simplistic trading outpost- dealing principally in furs- , and that it had morphed into a full-fledged colony in need of serious infrastructure, funding, and community controls, the West India Company could have made a more timely transition to English control, cut its losses quickly, and recalled or relocated its many employees to more profitable and less problematic regions when it saw no game-changing revenue support in its immediate future.  That Manhattan's decreasing profitability and increasing community problems were reasons to stop further finding resulted in stagnation. The decision not to nation-build  any further after a significant, yet unstable, European presence had been established and without further  left New Netherland without clear objectives and increased its corruption and instability.


The West India Company was for its time a racially and religiously tolerant as a corporation for purely pragmatic reasons. The needed to work with many races, nations and religions in the Caribbean, Africa, East Asia Manhattan, although their "work" with other people extended to buying and selling them as well , for the company was an active slave trader, and the enslaved at this time were a class entirely left out of compassionate consideration. Never-the-less, if one could possibly set aside this corporate abuse of the enslaved, as difficult as that is for us today, the company can be credited for readily soliciting sales and supply-side workers from all over the world to cooperate, and near New York it needed diverse Indian groups. Seventeen languages were spoken and any faith was welcome.


"The consciences of men ought to be free and unshackled," wrote the company directors when they scolded  Peter Stuyvesant for attempting to banish the newly minted Quakers William Hallett and John Bowne, "so long as they continue moderate, peaceful, inoffensive  and not hostile to the government; such have been the maxims of prudence and toleration by which the magistrates of this city (Amsterdam) have been governed and the consequences have been that the oppressed and persecuted from every country have fund among us an asylum from distress. Follow in the same steps and you will be blessed." But that was in 1663, long after their previous governor - William Kieft- had sailed for home and been drowned, along with his 400,000 guilders in a shipwreck near Swansea.

The Dutch experience is also a cautionary tale of long-distance oversight that is unable to address the dangerous actions of an errant individual who uses his authority to mutilate a corporate mission, dismiss credible complaint, and establish a patter of autocratic action. Like Warren Hastings in India more than one hundred years later, Kieft rejected and evaded all means of control and trampled egregiously on the common good.


By 1643 Kieft's mismanaged use of force and diplomacy had worsened the Indian situation for Manhattan-area Europeans who were clamoring ever more loudly and relentlessly for a resolution to what had become and endless cycle of European-Indian murder and revenge.  Governor Kieft's notion of what to do, however,  did not meet the expectations of his subjects. While some Dutch farmers, traders and soldiers had killed small numbers of Indians and the Indians avenged themselves with small-scale though shocking murders in return, few settlers of West India Company soldiers felt comfortable with the idea of a large-scale Indian slaughter as a solution to their problems. To discourage this idea, the Council of Eight Men tried to make Kieft personally lead any expeditionary force against large Indian massings, such that he would fully assume responsibility for such offensive ideas.  Kieft begged John Winthrop, for troops, offering 25,000 guilders and Fort Amsterdam  itself as collateral, but the governor of MA Bay Colony  "wholly declined, doubting the wisdom of his cause."

Kieft found the man for the job in John Underhill, an experienced man in such matters. Receiving information of a large gathering of Munsee people to celebrate the new moon of February:


One hundred and thirty men were accordingly dispatched under General Underhill and Ensign Hendrick van Dyke. They embarked in three yachts, landed at Greenwich, where they were obliged to pass the night by reason of the great snow and storm. In the morning they marched northwest up over stony hills, over which some were obliged to creep. In the evening, about eight o'clock, they came within aleague of the Indians, and inasmuch as they should have arrived too early and had to cross two rivers, one of two hundred feet wide and three feet deep, and that the men could not afterwards rest inconsequence of the cold, it was determined to remain there until about ten o'clock. Orders having been given as to the mode to be observed in attacking the Indians, the men marched forward towards the huts, which were set up in three rows, street fashion, each eighty paces in length, in a low recess of the mountain, affording complete shelter from the northwest wind.


The moon was ten at the full and threw a strong light against the mountain, so that many winter's days were not clearer than it was then.  On arriving, the enemy was found on alert and on their guard, so that our people determined to charge and surround the huts, sword in hand. The Indians behaved like soldiers, deployed in small bands, so we had in a short time one dead and twelve wounded. They were likewise so hard pressed that it was impossible for one to escape. Ina brief period of time, one hundred and eighty were counted dead outside their houses. Presently none durst come forth, keeping themselves within the houses, discharging arrows through the holes. The General, seeing that nothing else was to be done, resolved with Sergeant Major Underhill, to set fire to the huts. Whereupon  the Indians tried every way to escape, not succeeding in which they returned back to the flames, preferring to perish by fire than to die by our hands.


What was most wonderful is, that among the vast collection of men, women and children, not one was heard to cry or scream. According to the report of the Indians themselves, the number then destroyed exceeding five hundred. Some say, full 700, among whom were also 25 Wappingers, our God having collected together there the greater number of our enemies, to celebrate one of their festivals. No more than eight men in all escaped, of whom even three were severely wounded.


The fight ended, several fires were built in consequence of the great cold. The wounded, fifteen in number were dressed and sentinels were posted by the General. The troops bivouacked there for the remainder of the night. On the next day, the party set out much refreshed in good order, so as to arrive at Stamford in the evening. They marched with great courage over that wearisome mountain, God affording extraordinary strength to the wounded, some of whom were badly hurt and came in the afternoon to Stamford after a march of two days and one night, with little rest. The English received our people in a very friendly manner, affording them every comfort. In two days they reached here. A thanksgiving was proclaimed on their arrival.


The Europeans who participated in the massacre did not boast or write of it in  personal documentation yet discovered. Killings on both sides continued.


In April 1644, seven savages were arrested at Hempstead on Long Island for killing two or three pigs, although later found that some Englishmen had done it. Kieft sent John Underhill and fifteen or sixteen soldiers to Hempstead, who killed three of the seven in a cellar. He then put the four remaining Indians in a boat, two of whom were towed behind in the water by a string round their necks. The soldiers drowned these two men and the two unfortunate survivors were detained as prisoners at Fort Amsterdam where they were brutally tortured. A critic of the events, perhaps David DeVries, wrote of Kieft's brutality in the most inflammatory manner possible to drive home his point that Kieft must be recalled:


When (the Indian prisoners) had been kept a long time in the corps de garde, the Director became tired of giving them food any longer and they were delivered to the soldiers to do with as they pleased. The poor unfortunate prisoners were immediately dragged out of the guard house and soon dispatched with knives of from 18 to20 inches long which Director Kieft had made for his soldiers for such purposes, saying that swords were for use in the huts of the savages, when they went to surprise them; but that these knives were much handier for bowelling them.


The first of these savages having received a frightful wound, desired them to permit him to dance what is called the Kinte Kayce, a religious use observed among them before death; he received however so many wounds that he dropped down dead. The soldiers then cut strips from the other's body, beginning at the calves, up the back, over the shoulders and down to the knees. While this was going on, Governor Kieft, with his comrade Jan de la Montaigne, a Frenchman, (and Fort physician) stood laughing heartily at the fun and rubbing his right arm, so much delight the took in such scenes. He then ordered hit to be taken out of the fort, and the soldiers bringing him to the Beaver's Path, he dancing the Kinte Kayce the entire time, threw him down, cut off his genetales, thrust them in his mouth while still alive, and at last placing him on a mill stone cut off his head . . . What I tell you is true, for by the same token there stood at the same time 24 0r 25 female savages who had been taken prisoner at the N.. point of the fort; and when they saw this bloody spectacle they held up their arms, struck their mouth, and, in their language exclaimed: "For shame! For shame! Such unheard of cruelty was never known, or even thought among us!" The savages have often called out to us from a distance: "what scoundrels you Swanneken are, you do not war upon us, but upon our wives and children who you treacherously murder; whereas we do no harm either to your wives or your children, but feed and take care of them, till we send them back to you again.


And further, Director Kieft, not content with this causing the hunted savages to be surprised, engaged some English spies to accompany his soldiers as guides, into places unknown to our people, by which many poor inoffensive savages were cruelly and traitorously massacred.


In 1908, the extended descendents of John Underhill erected a monument over his grave. Buoyed by generation of gratitude and reverence to the man, including John Greenleaf Whittier's ode to his many exploits, the family invited President Theodore Roosevelt and the editor of the Brooklyn Daily Times to speak at the large granite monument's unveiling ceremonies. The  newspaper editor, to his credit, felt somewhat squeamish at extolling the virtues of a man who had slain close to a thousand Indians personally, noted that Underhill, "judged by today, would have been called a butcher." He also appropriately reminded his audience to "judge him as of his own time, and not as our time, to which he did not belong." It is undeniable, however, that the man had a mental construct that allowed him to kill hundreds of men, women and children when others in his time would not .

Nor were those times so different from our own.






Antietam by Richard Slotkin


McClellan's overestimate of enemy strength was fabulous in scale, and the errors that produced it were systematic. McClellan typically credited Confederates on his front with two or three times their actual strength. Every military operation McClellan undertook, from his arrival in Washington to the end of the Antietam campaign, would be premised on the belief that the enemy heavily outnumbered him. Because the War Department did not have its own intelligence apparatus, it had no independent means of checking McClellan's estimates.


McClellan's earliest force estimates were based on Confederate newspaper reports and civilian rumors, but he soon put in place an intelligence service commanded by the railroad detective Allan Pinkerton. Although Pinkerton's methods were effective against rear-area subversives liker the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle and the Baltimore "Blood Tubs", he was out of his depth in the field of military intelligence. His operatives did succeed in infiltrating Confederate offices, obtaining army paperwork, and gathering rumors about Rebel operations; but they did not know how to distinguish units that existed merely on paper from regiments fully manned, equipped, and ready for battle.. They could tell McClellan the number of regiments officially credited to Lee's army but not the actual strength of these nits. This failure was not entirely their fault, however -  Confederate accounting methods were so slipshod that even an army commander like Lee could not be absolutely  certain of the number of troops in his command.  Never-the-less, the result was an astounding overestimate of the Rebel forces in Virginia.


(In their meeting on September 22 , after the battle, Lincoln completely bamboozled Pinkerton in regards to his estimation and intentions  to McClellan. "Pinkerton was disarmed by his own and McClellan's belief that the president was not very intelligent.")


Pinkerton's information might have been useful had it been subject to critical analysis by an intelligence staff and supplemented by other forms of intelligence gathering - scouting by cavalry, or the use of large units for a reconnaissance- in-force, the taking and questioning of POWs, and assessment of their state of equipment, health and training, and so forth. an analysis of the Federal army's own difficulty raising troops, equipping them, and maintaining regiments at full strength would have suggested how unlikely it was that the Confederates were raising a larger army - given that the North had a larger White population to draw on, and far better resources for transporting and supplying its armies. But since McClellan insisted on being his own chief of intelligence, there was no independent staff review. McClellan also read all intelligence through the distorting lens of his conviction that he and his army were the Republic's sole hope of salvation  against the twin threats of Secession and Radical Republicanism) and must run no risk of defeat. It followed that in estimating the opposition he must always err on the side of caution, basing his moves on the assumption that the enemy force was as large as it  could conceivably be. Field reports that suggested the enemy in his front was at less than maximum possible strength were characteristically discounted. He never tested these strength estimates by matching them against the known limitations of Confederate manpower, production, and transportation.

[At Antietam he withheld or too cautiously deployed reserves at crucial times in the battle thus failing to exploit breakthroughs on the right, center and left of his lines. He failed to recognize and make use of his advantage in numbers and the reports of his own line commanders on the weakness of the enemy's positions after the day of the battle thus allowing Lee to stand his ground unmolested all day and to retreat with impunity the next day. ]


Questionable judgments were also being made on the other side of Antietam Creek. Lee had been too sanguine about the speed with which Jackson's force could join him at Sharpsburg, so for the whole of September 16 he had faced McClellan with a force less than half as large. His assumption that McClellan would not immediately attack in force proved correct, but his army's situation on September 17 would have been only fractionally better than it had been the day before.  All his labor and daring since September 14 had only succeeded in putting his army in an extremely dangerous position, faced with an enemy twice its strength, with its back to a river crossed by two difficult fords. To achieve a meaningful victory, Lee had not only to defend his lines but to drive the larger army back and force it to retreat behind South Mountain. If at the end of the day McClellan simply held his very strong position on the high ground east of the creek, Lee would have little choice but to retreat to Virginia. It has been said, and is certainly true, that Lee understood McClellan's weaknesses as a battlefield tactician, and believed he could exploit these ( by means of the excellent lines of communications he maintained with his line commanders) to win a victory. But that seems a slim reed on which to rest the fate of an army and, potentially, a nation.


Still, the possibility exists that Lee was unaware just how far his original force had been diminished by combat and straggling (he did not established an adequate  system of accounting for the real strength of his regiments until after Antietam). Lee's troops, however, were not only weak in numbers, their physical strength had been compromised by weeks of hard marching and a bad or inadequate diet, in addition to the ordinary debilitating effects of bad sanitation and polluted drinking water. Most of Lee's men had been subsisting on unripe or uncooked corn and unripe fruit, which gave them the "gripes" and the "squitters". Diarrhea and dysentery were endemic in the Rebel camps. After the fighting their abandoned battle lines could be traced in rows of loose and bloody feces.


By his excessive caution, his refusal to move until every risk had been minimized, McClellan had revealed his fear of losing control of the action. In contrast, Lee understood and accepted the fact that battle is chaos and was a 'connoisseur' of this chaos. At least he believed that his own skill as a commander, the experience and skill of his chief subordinates, the efficacy of his command system, and the superior morale of his troops would allow him to ride that chaos; and that the weaknesses of McClellan, his generals and his army made them liable to a loss of control, and a cascade of failures leading to defeat.


The strategist does what he can to create a situation in which victory is likely and the gains in battle are commensurate with the risks. But battle is the violent collision of two highly complex human systems, driven by different impulses, organized indifferent ways, with different strengths and solidarities. The outcome may turn on actions far down the chain of command, surprising local successes that boost the advantage and morale of one side, wreck the prospects and demoralize the other. . . 

September 17 was the costliest day of combat in American history, leaving 25 thousand Americans dead or wounded. That Lee's army retreated meant that the battle was a tactical victory for the Union. But the sound and fury, the immense cost in death suffering, and grief, had not resolved the strategic crisis. Hardly anyone was entirely happy with the result apart from George McClellan and his supporters- they believed he had vouchsafed his position as sole savior of the Republic. Lincoln had still not effected the strategic transformation envisioned in early July: the shift from a strategy of conciliation to a war of subjection, in which restoration of the Union was linked to general emancipation - a shift that required the permanent sidelining of General McClellan.  Victory at Antietam fulfilled one condition for issuing an emancipation proclamation, but that same victory also seemed to aggrandize McClellan, who opposed emancipation and was attempting the thwart Lincoln's policies.

In the end, however, McClellan's political advisors decided  that it was the general's duty  to submit to the president's proclamation and quietly continue to do his duty as a soldier, that any form of opposition by McClellan to the president's decree  would be perceived  by Democrats as a military usurpation. To weaken McClellan's position, Lincoln and his Secretary John Hay began feeding criticisms of the general's performance to Republican journals . One of Lincoln's favorite criticisms o McClellan - that he was "an auger to dull to take hold" - started popping up (without attribution) in the Tribune.  Lincoln also authorized John Hay to begin a secret journalistic campaign to expose McClellan's flaws as a general, thus preparing the public mind for his removal. Hay's method was one Lincoln had used often against opponents: he satirized the general, deflated him by ridicule.


Above all it was McClellan's inactivity after the Battle of Antietam  which doomed his future as the top general in the Union Army,  dramatically demonstrated during three days in October when General Lee unleashed Jeb Stuart's cavalry for a spectacular raid that took him up into Pennsylvania and all around McClellan's Army.


[ Lincoln is renowned for his ability to manage the "Team of Rivals" that constituted his government, but in1862 his strategic transformation was nearly wrecked by his inability to get his cabinet officers and his generals   to cooperate with him and each other.]