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Perry Cuskey

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Blog Comments posted by Perry Cuskey

  1. You make some good points, Stan. It can darn well be a contentious issue. But let me play devil's advocate a bit, since I seem to be contrary by nature.

    A difference I see between a display on slavery and/or states rights and say, your example of something at Normandy on the Holocaust, would be that the Holocaust was not a cause of World War II. Yes, it certainly would be part of a wider context to include such a thing, and the Nazis would probably have eventually undertaken it even without a war. It would be a wider context where learning about Nazi Germany would be concerned.

    But the wider context I'm thinking about where the Civil War is concerned would be adding something about what caused it. To coin a phrase, that leads to a whole nother debate. But for now I'm just referring to the idea of including something to show why all those battles were fought to begin with.

    Again, I do think the whole 'wider context' thing has to have a limit - you have to draw the line somewhere or you can get badly sidetracked. But I do think there is a place for something on "The Cause."

    Your point about making room for a display on slavery/states rights at the expense of information on the battle though, is pretty strong. And you're probably right about not expanding the various visitors centers to accommodate such a change, for practical financial reasons if for nothing else.

    On the other hand (my contrary side again), I don't know that such a display would need to be all that big - you really just need an overview of some sort to do the job rather than tell the whole detailed story. Plus, there's the fact that we already don't get the whole story of a battle, even at that battlefield's visitors center. They hit the highlights, or at least what someone at one time decided were the highlights.

    It's the same when going on a park's main tour. They show you what are thought to be the highlights of the battle, and not much else. At Shiloh, for instance, the western side of the battlefield was excluded from the main tour route for decades. Visiting the stop that includes Everett Peabody's mortuary monument, you learn that he died there. That's it. Nothing about his crucial role leading up to the opening shots. Spain Field - Spain Field - isn't even on the tour. Even after re-doing the tour route. Something I have a hard time understanding.

    We're already excluding information on the battle, even at the battlefield park itself. I understand that this has to be done, but it doesn't mean I have to agree with some of what gets left out.

    Now, it doesn't automatically follow that we should take it to an extreme and exclude more and more, just to add information on what caused the war. But, would it really be so bad to take out one display of rusted bullets in favor of one brief overview of what is thought to have brought the war about?

    I'm not saying I don't have mixed emotions about the whole thing, because I do. And I'm not a card-carrying member of the PC crowd, even though my initials are, well, PC. :) The whole PC thing gets taken way too far a lot of times, but it's also done some good, in my opinion. But I do think where the war is concerned, it can't hurt to include something at the parks, or at least some of them, on why the whole thing started in the first place.

    But like I said, I'm contrary. ;)


  2. I can't remember all the details, but I'm pretty sure that Longstreet wanted to retreat. It's generally thought that Jackson favored staying, but one of the historians who wrote a book about the battle outlined a case for Jackson actually favoring retreat as well. It may have been James V. Murfin in Gleam of Bayonets, but I'm not sure. But, I think the general attitude that evening among Lee's officers was that they were pretty amazed he was choosing to stay and offer battle again.

    Again though, I can't recall all the details as I haven't read up on in a while now. But I know Lee's decision amazes me. :)

    I agree about McClellan, but I keep coming back to the same thing, which is the enormous risk that Lee was running compared to what he had to gain. It's like betting your entire bank account on a pair of two's and hoping the other guy folds. It worked and that's what gets the attention, but mercy sakes what a risk.


  3. Hi Ken!

    Yes, I think you're probably right about Lee. He seems to have had a good overall read on McClellan, no question about it, and it served him well on the Peninsula and in the run-up to Second Manassas. But it darn near got him fried in Maryland, first at South Mountain and then at Sharpsburg.

    The thing that gets me about what he did at Antietam though, is this. If he was gambling that Little Mac wasn't going to attack, he was going against the evidence. Mac had attacked the day before, so it strikes me that he's likely to do so again. Plus, of course, he actually broke Lee's line on the 17th. Had he pressed that advantage the battle ends right there. Lee's army was in worse shape on the 18th, yet he stayed put. Wow.

    I do agree that he believed himself and his army to be better than McClellan and his army, but I can't get away from the idea that it was just this side of a suicidal decision. It's like Mac was pointing a locked and loaded gun at his head, and Lee gambled that he wouldn't pull the trigger. He got away with it, but that doesn't make it the right decision to me. Too much at risk compared to any possible reward.

    There has to be something to what you say though, because I seriously have to wonder if Lee makes the same choice against, say, Grant. But, maybe he does. Maybe the decision was less about McClellan than it was about Lee, and the confidence he had in himself and his army. It served him well most of the time, but now and then it served him very badly. Antietam for me would be the shining example.

    Thanks for the post. :)

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