How the First World War Started…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28th, 2007 by kokoro

 ... as told by Blackadder.

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The more you know...

Final of To Appomattox and Beyond

Posted in FSEM100RR on September 23rd, 2007 by kokoro

In the final chapters Logue covers the experiences of returning veterans on both sides and the war’s impact on 20th century America.

Much like Continental Army soldiers, Union soldiers were not discharged right after the fighting was over. Many men were wary of returning home, unsure of how to fit back into normal society. They felt intrinsically changed and didn’t want to leave the only people who would understand. The people too were wary of returning soldiers, thinking the peace of quiet towns would disappear. Their fears were founded when soldiers took to looting and fighting, as well as drinking and drug addiction (morphine had been given liberally to wounded soldiers), though this was only a small minority. Unlike the Revolutionary vets, Union soldiers got parades, and found themselves growing tired of them rather quickly. Like Revolutionary vets, however, many who returned in late 1865 found it hard to get employment, leaving many homeless. This crisis passed and jobs soon became available.

Black soldiers, of course, were not so lucky. Many remained in the army to enforce law in the South. This was obviously a bad idea, as many Southerners didn’t take kindly to being told what to do by people who they thought should be working for them. Black soldiers could barely protect themselves from whites (including their own irritated officers who wanted to go home), let alone freed slaves. Black vets also had more trouble finding employment up North than even non-vet blacks had.

Even with public and newspaper (yay!) sympathy, the gov’t took little action for vets initially. Disabled soldiers and sometimes their widows received pensions, but few knew about them. By 1879 though, the Republicans and Democrats were interested in vet votes so a retroactive pension was created, which more disabled vets applied for. Soldier’s homes were also opened for the disabled, though those running them were wary of the lack of self-control of many vets, and so ran them like military institutions. Union vets also created fraternal organizations, the most popular and long lasting being the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which raised money and lobbied pensions for veterans.

Confederate veterans, who had fought for a gov’t that ceased to exist, returned home to no parades and a society in the process of reconstruction. With the bitter taste of defeat on their tongues, some vets moved (Texas being especially popular), but the majority stayed in their home states. There was lawlessness and attacks on civilians, Unionists, and blacks, but most returning soldiers suffered from apathy, in most aspects of life but especially in politics. Disabled vets were provided with pensions and care during the war, but by the late 1860s aid had stopped.

Many veterans came to terms with defeat by commemorating their dead comrades. Monuments were erected in cemeteries, and Memorial Day started in the South in 1866. Others were unable to accept this new society of freed slaves. The Ku Klux Klan was created, with many of its leaders being former Confederate soldiers. Others joined less because of the ex-slaves and more because it was like experiencing their military lives again.

By the mid 1870s the apathy had ended as Southern Dems wanted to recapture the legislature from the Republicans. Many former officers were elected into political positions. Other political parties grew, like the Grangers (later the Farmer’s Alliance, which then spilt into the Populists), which drew the eye of many vets. Eventually, veteran loyalty was caught between the Populists and the Dems. Nevertheless, Confederate veterans proved to make a large impact on the new gov’ts of the South, including the many laws passed against blacks that lasted well into the next century.

Fraternal organizations grew, the most popular being the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), the Southern equivalent to GAR. The UCV pushed for memorials to the dead to become shrines to the common soldier. Monuments popped up everywhere, rather than just in cemeteries, to honor the living as well as the dead. With new interest in the Civil War, civilians worried about the poverty of ex-soldiers. By the 1890s aid was resumed in the form of pensions and soldier’s homes for the disabled.

By the 1890s both Union and Confederate veterans were dealing with the passing of their generation. Increasing immigration, impersonal corporations, and large cities replaced the world they knew. “Many veterans undoubtedly believed that the nation they had saved was becoming dangerously unrecognizable (101).” They became concerned about their legacy, so they made sure America and its children wouldn’t forget what they fought for by making their presence known, whether in politics, schools, or whatever else. As well, during this time, many Blue-Gray reunions were taking place, a reconciliation of men who could understand each other better than anyone else, despite once being enemies.

In the early 20th century, many veterans were reaching their eighties. Old age was considered a disability, so nearly all Union vets were now receiving pensions. Many more Confederate soldiers were getting pensions as well. Soldier’s homes for both sides became much more crowded and focused on the infirmities of the old. By 1920 WWI provided an influx of millions of veterans that became a much higher priority to the gov’t than these old relics of the past.

Co. Aytch and To Appomattox and Beyond: Chapters 1-4

Posted in FSEM100RR on September 20th, 2007 by kokoro

The final of Co. Aytch was very good, continuing in the vain as the first twelve chapters. To Appomattox and Beyond takes a more objective and scholarly view of the soldiers life, yet it never really became boring and tedious to read. The set up of the book is very simple and easy, with each chapter dedicated to one side, comparing and contrasting aspects of the Northern and Southern armies.

Chapters 1 and 2 cover the raising of each army. As the Civil War loomed, Northern cities had been growing exponentially for years, with populations flourishing. Manufacturing had become an important part of society, and a series of railroads and telegraph lines connected much of the North. Despite all the progression, there remained many rural and small town farmers and families. Social reform was big: unions were created to protect the rights of factory workers, there were children and women’s rights activists, as well as many fighting against poverty and slavery.

The South, meanwhile, had only minimal growth in cities and continued to rely on agriculture completely. As well, there was a divide between farmers of the Southern states. Some were big plantation cash crop producing planters, while many others were small farmers, planting for substenance. There were also mountain communities who felt disconnected to the rest; many actually supported or joined the Union. Tensions were kept in check because planters loaned out slaves to small farmers, who provided votes for planters. Planters also watched for slave uprisings, which would have had no benefit to any farmers, big or small. Southern men were all about expressing their manhood, usually through knife fights (in the lower class) or dueling (in the upper class).

When war broke out both sides felt the fervor, the South more so as they were likely to be invaded. Both armies were in constant need of men, despite many enlistments. The South enacted the first national draft in America, and the North eventually allowed blacks to join in late 1862 (though it took years for them to gain any respect even with many casualties, and even then they still received lesser supplies and medical help). In the South women played a big role in convincing men to join, playing of their masculinity, or lack thereof, in not joining. The soldiers of both sides often spoke of joining for more personal reasons over political ones. Soldiers of the North were often young, with uncertain financial futures. Farmers were less likely to join. They were very concerned with an image of self-control and restraint, as was the roots of the Puritan North. The soldiers of the South were also very young, but one was more likely to join the more secure his economic status, as the planters would be most affected if the Union won. Southerners, with a society that prized character and reputation, were inclined to express emotions and evaluate character more than Northerners.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss experiences of Union and Confederate troops during the war. Both sides had similar reactions to camp life, in that they often questioned orders from their officers, and disliked the constant drilling, menial tasks, and waiting for battles. They all liked music and playing games (baseball, snowball fights, etc.), as well as gambling and drinking (though the officers tried to stop it). They also missed the company of women, resorting to all men dances with some dressed as women and to prostitutes (officers tried to stop this too). This led to the spreading of venereal diseases, and coupled with many other diseases that spread throughout camps, many soldiers didn’t even get to fight a battle. Many soldiers on both sides brought their own guns, though the Union was able to provide guns unlike the South where many men had none. There were equal reactions to death (that began with horror and disgust and later turned to apathy), as well as to frontal assaults, which men became resistant to because of the high casualties they produced. Men on both sides built communities, as many men of a regiment were from the same areas, creating close ties of friendship and brotherhood between men. Southern soldiers in camps suffered more than Northerners due to little supplies. Men went on with no real uniform let alone good clothes, no food or blankets, and even no shoes.

Hospitals, though organized fairly quickly, were very poor. Amputation was often the choice for injured limbs and disease ran rampant. Doctors (who numbered less in the South) knew very little about infection and disease. Nurses often became mother figures to the despondent men. Prisons were another place of horror to captured soldiers. The conditions were terrible on both sides (more so in the South as it could barely feed its army due to poor supplies). As the war went on desertion in the North was often from men who had little reason to stay (not lucrative), while in the South many men left because their families couldn’t maintain their farms. Discipline on these men was much more harsh in the South, leading to executions much more often.

As the invading army Union soldiers had to deal with civilians. Southern guerrillas and their violence towards the army angered many soldiers, so they resorted to looting and burning civilian homes in retribution. Fortunately, little rape occurred. Though soldiers hardly showed the same restraint to guerillas who were tortured if caught. Confederates, when in Pennsylvania, carried on in much the same way as they thought the Yankees did. Southerners had a large religious revival (though many chaplains quit early on), unlike the North. Many Confederates found a personal friend in God.

Co. Aytch: Chapters 1-12

Posted in FSEM100RR on September 17th, 2007 by kokoro

Co. Aytch is the memoir of Sam R. Watkins, a private soldier of the Confederacy during the Civil War, written twenty years after the war ended. Most of what we learn of the Civil War is from the perspective of generals. This account is from the common soldier, who knew little of the larger picture, yet did the majority of the brute fighting. 

Watkins has an easily understandable writing style and a good sense of humor. The set up of the book, with various disconnected pieces of memory in each chapter, almost reminds me of Tim O’Brien’s fictional novel The Things They Carried. Unfortunately, for some reason I can’t explain, only some of Watkins’ recollections evoke emotion from me. 

Watkins often, perhaps even too often, reminds the reader that he is writing twenty years after his time in the army, so his memory fails him. As well, there are many things he simply never knew to begin with, so he refers the reader to the history books. Sometimes he even gets things completely off base, such as a name, which is corrected in a footnote. I did find it odd that he sometimes quotes speeches seemingly word for word with this faulty memory of his. 

Certainly, I don’t expect everything to be accurate. If it were a diary written during the war I wouldn’t expect it all to be true either. We all tend to embellish and misremember things even if they happened yesterday. However, Co. Aytch is still a good look into the life of a common soldier during the Civil War. 

We read of the energy, the patriotism, and the belief that what they are doing is right that these young men feel at the start of the war. The war will be glorious, they believe, as most soldiers do before experiencing battle for the first time. Unlike the indifference many citizens felt during the Revolution, the people cheer on their soldiers, providing them with food and other necessities when they can. Soon the soldiers realize the horrors and hardships of war: constant marching with no sleep or rations for days, bloody battles leaving friends injured, deformed, or dead (something Watkins deals with through his belief in God and heaven), and the threat of court martial or execution by your own side for something like falling asleep (and who wouldn’t with so little of so many things?) at your post. To a general, the common soldier is an automaton who knows nothing but to fire his gun when commanded. Of course, as Watkins points out, he knew many generals who weren’t generals and many privates who would’ve been good generals. 

Watkins isn’t specific about battles, most of the time because he doesn’t know the specifics, but as he says, the book isn’t about what is exact history but what is his experience. Watkins’ experiences, unlike, say, Joseph Plumb Martin’s, are expressed without bombastic metaphors, perhaps making his accounts more easily accepted as truth. I rarely question Watkins’ recollections, such as meeting Generals Lee and Jackson, like I do Plumb Martin’s meeting with General Washington. 

Watkins’ memoirs, of course, are only from one Confederate soldier long after the war is over. This gives us a view rarely expressed in history, one from a common soldier of the losing side. It must be remembered, though, that it is only one side of the war. Did the Union soldiers have the same experiences and feelings as the Confederate soldiers did? The Civil War is an interesting part of history in relation to the subject of our class. How many American wars have left both winning and losing veterans as citizens of the United States?

“We must all be soldiers.”

Posted in FSEM100RR on September 12th, 2007 by kokoro

Wages of War discusses the impoverished state and mistreatment of many vets after the Revolution. Suffering Soldiers discusses the changing public view of vets and the causes of this change.

By the time Jefferson took the presidency, veterans, though honored to a certain degree, were not memorialized because citizens believed fighting for liberty was its own reward. The idea that the Revolution was a people’s war was popular; citizen-soldiers and people were the same and had suffered just the same during the war. The Continental Army was not included with this group. They were seen as the dregs of society, corrupt and untrustworthy. However, division arose because of Jefferson’s poor defense policy. The Federalists believed a standing army was necessary for the protection of the nation, while the Republicans, under Jefferson, held animosity towards permanent armies, vestiges of fear towards the British standing army from before the Revolution.

During this time, the Continental Army and its hardship became romanticized. While the Republicans used the idea of the citizen-soldier as an ideal, the Federalists, in order to gain support for a standing army, used the Continental Army as a symbol of patriotism. Instead of being viewed a rabble and poor men, the army became a virtuous group fighting against the evils of corruption and tyranny. This became true of all soldiers, who had the so-called “spirit of seventy-six.”

As a new war became a threat, the image of the heroic soldier as well as the people’s war became a rallying cry. Young men were expected to live up to the valor, bravery, and self-sacrifice of those Revolution heroes who came before them. Publications of the time promoted unity and civic duty, with soldiers as a representative of American greatness. The spirit of ’76 was still strong. It soon became apparent that this was not the case as the British won many battles. The idea of the people’s war was dead. Now that of the American soldier, the suffering soldier, grew strength. The disaster of the War of 1812 showed America that a citizen soldier wasn’t enough; a trained military man was necessary to protect the nation. It was time to create a standing army.

Around this time the idea of moral sentiment grew popular. Society felt it had a debt of gratitude to repay to those who had fought for their freedom. Sympathy grew towards the suffering soldier, who despite giving up so much, was treated terribly by citizens after the war had ended. The indifference and outright animosity shown towards vets, as discussed in Wages of War, now made Americans feel guilty. Unlike the disgust aimed at impoverished and disabled vets in years past, these poor men were no longer to be shunned. In fact, poverty and permanent injury were among many signs of their virtuous characters.

Veterans used this recognition to make petitions to Congress in order to get their pensions. Despite moral sentiment and popularity, Congress turned down many of these petitions. Finally, in 1816 a pension act for disabled vets was passed. Then the 1818 Revolutionary War Pension Act was passed and soldiers of the Revolution were seen by all as brave exemplary republican warriors who were among the greatest of Americans.

After many years, veterans were getting the respect and the payment they deserved. It was an Era of Good Feelings in more ways than one. However, there were those vets that didn’t live to experience this popularity, and instead died in obscurity.

The new feeling that grew towards Revolutionary War vets is a perfect example of how history changes as outlooks on the present change. The experiences of the Continental Army were revised and romanticized to suit the needs of the nation at a time when patriotism was especially necessary. Veterans were then idealized when a movement of moral sentiment grew. This brings a question of how much of history is reliable. Can we really trust anything were learn as complete fact? When the whims of the people change, history can change right along with them.

“I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere…”

Posted in FSEM100RR on September 10th, 2007 by kokoro

Hmm, I’ve made a few comments on other’s blogs, but they don’t seem to have appeared. Perhaps they haven’t been approved?

Anyway, in Chapter 3 of Wages of War we learn about Henry Knox, before he became the first Secretary of War and started the Society of the Cincinnati. Knox seemed pretty well off before the war, with a popular bookstore and a sweet, soon to be bursting from the seams with acres of land lady friend. He even liked the British and their comfortable lifestyle. So all and all, he would’ve been fine with or without the war. During the war, Knox proved to be an important man to General Washington. There’s a tiny glimpse into Washington’s apparent sense of humor as the good general sent Knox, a quite plump and pleasantly fed individual, out to represent the starving army to the citizens, in order to raise money. After the war, Knox started the Society of the Cincinnati to recognize and honor officers. Though mostly supported by Washington, many other founding fathers weren’t too happy about the new society. Jefferson, Jay, Adams, and others especially disliked the notion of membership being passed down through generations. Understandable, considering they had just fought a war against an enemy who did just this sort of thing. Franklin’s biggest problem, however, seemed to be the eagle the society used as its symbol. Who would want a cowardly eagle when you could have a majestic turkey?

Chapter 4 mentioned government honors given to soldiers. It was all well and good to have a society dedicated to officers, but that had nothing to do with the government, which obviously had much more power and distinction. Meanwhile, the vets, including the ones that were honored, were facing serious problems, most especially in Massachusetts. The vets were only left with useless paper money when they needed hard coins. Many wealthy individuals took part in speculation (buying paper money for less than it’s worth); even the Governor of Massachusetts was taking advantage of these vets. Many veterans in MA and others New England states were yeomen farmers. The tax system in MA basically forced those with the most land to pay the most taxes. So farmers with the least money were paying more taxes, while merchants with the most money were paying fewer taxes. MA tax collectors and coastal merchants (who traded with the British) wanted coins not cash. Farmers unfortunately did not have hard money, which was difficult to come by as most of it was what was left by the British, so many lost their farms or were put in debtor prisons. The farmers tried to peacefully protest with petitions and later sit-ins. These protests went unheeded. This was the start of the so-called Shays’ Rebellion, though it hardly belonged to Shays’ nor was it a rebellion. Shays was just a normal, down-to-earth fellow who fought in the war with distinction and somehow ended up being thought of as the major head of the movement.

Chapter 5 revealed an interesting bit about journalists of the time. What self-respecting journalist has ever been uninterested in exposing injustice? Apparently journalists after the Revolution. Shays and other leaders of the ‘rebellion’ were essentially depicted as unpatriotic brutes terrorizing an innocent newborn nation. When did fighting against unfairness, the very thing the Revolution was about, become wrong? Certainly these people were nothing like the journalists we know today, though both prove to be obnoxious. In order to put down the rebellion, the MA government needed to raise an army. Congress couldn’t give any money as it couldn’t even pay the vets their half pay, so it came from private sources of wealthy individuals. The militia consisted of, ironically or not, city dwelling vets who were without money. This army had support from many blacks, some who were veterans themselves, mostly to keep the wrath of the irritated government from turning onto them. Massachusetts may have abolished slavery, but that certainly didn’t mean blacks were free from discrimination. Eventually, after some conflict, all of which was started by the MA army, the rebellion was put down as the farmers went back home to prepare for spring planting, proof that these men just wanted to farm and live simple lives. Years later, Shays was pardoned, but he never returned to his farm. He did, however, seem to live a generally fulfilling life despite all that had occurred.

History tends to paint the whole thing in a bad light, certainly because the farmers lost, the government won, and the victor always writes history. In school we learn about the impact of Shays’ Rebellion as something that showed the nation under the Articles of Confederation was not going to work. Perhaps it was part of the reason, but it wasn’t the only one. So what did it really accomplish? To Jefferson, “a little rebellion now and then” was just a normal and healthy part of being a nation.

“I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.”

Posted in FSEM100RR on September 5th, 2007 by kokoro

Chapters 1 and 2 of the Wages of War give insight into the last year or so of the Revolution as men begin returning home and the treaty signing approaches. As we discussed in class, the men went home with no money to find no celebrations going on and no jobs open for them.

The economy went on without them. In fact, certain areas seemed to be doing fantastically. New York City, despite being partly destroyed and a crime center, was booming with goods, many of which came from the expelled forces. Anyone with money (that wasn’t useless paper) could buy fancy imported sweets, spices, drinks, and linen. Boston’s population lived in a posh society much like that of the British, and actually felt accosted by the returning veterans. Both enlisted men and officers, many of whom lost their fortunes, expressed their dislike for businessmen who shied away from fighting yet prospered while they themselves received no repayment for their toils.

Congress, which had been debating back and forth between the idea of back pay, finally chose to leave it mostly to the states, though it was decided that officers would receive money. However, the war left the nation in debt, and the states had their own money problems. Veterans were left with half-promises of half pay.

Civilians paid about as much thought to the plight of these men as the new federal government and the state governments did. The only comment made about the poor condition most veterans found themselves in was in the Gazette, and that was mostly lighthearted. Most people were, instead, happily reading books like A View of Society and Manners in [insert country here], which I found vaguely humorous.

While all of this was going on, there was General Washington who knew his men were unhappy, but who really couldn’t do anything about it except keep them from rebelling. He respected his army, but he also wanted the nation that they fought so hard to create to get up on its feet and stay that way. So when his officers met with him to essentially bitch him out, he made the above quote before discussing the current condition of Congress and its lack of money. The quote shows that Washington himself had also made sacrifices. He’d given up just as much as, if not more than, his men had, and he did it all without complaining. Of course the officers backed down and walked away with even more respect, if possible, for the general.

“I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.” In actuality, this quote in a way exemplifies the plight of veterans, not just of the American Revolution, but also of all wars. Veterans make so many sacrifices for their nation and their people, but even after all the fighting is over they still finds themselves suffering.

“Crazy as a goose shot through the head…”

Posted in FSEM100RR on September 3rd, 2007 by kokoro

The first link provides some background information on Joseph Plumb Martin and the publishing of his diary. There are then various selections about his time during the war and the hardships that common soldiers faced. Apparently, the book didn’t do well when it was first published around 1830, which would suggest little interest in war diaries at the time. So it seemed that for some reason American citizens were uninterested in the experiences of the men who allowed them to live in freedom.

The second link provides many of the same selections. However, it also states that Plumb Martin’s diary should be taken with a grain of salt, as he tended to exaggerate and embellish his tales. As historians often rely on diaries for personal perspectives that couldn’t possibly be seen in government records and statistics, the question is, how much can be taken away from these diaries and be seen as the truth? As a side note, I also find it interesting that Plumb Martin refers to Pennsylvanians as ‘Southerners.’

The third link gives a description of the Battle of Yorktown. The thing that most stuck with me after reading was my disbelief that the watchword Rochambeau could ever possibly sound like rush-on-boys, even when spoken in a rush. I feel like maybe I should’ve come away with more than that…

In the last link, Plumb Martin reflects on his discharge. The previous selections give insight into the hardships many soldiers faced while fighting: little food and clothing, harsh weather, and constant danger of being killed. Here we read of the promises made to these soldiers in repayment for all the sacrifices they made. There is a great disparity between what the soldiers were promised during and after the war (food, clothing, and money) and what they actually got.