Graham T. Dozier on Letters from the Battle of Cedar Creek

Two days later, when Tom took the time to send Susan a letter, he was still stunned. “In the morning [the Confederates] were lions, in the evening lambs. Such facts are incredible to one who has not witnessed them but they are unfortunately too true.”
In the same letter, dated October 21, Carter offered a simple opinion as to why the battle had been lost. “The Yankee discipline,” he asserted, “is immeasurably superior to ours.” In a rare moment of frustration, he lashed out at the behavior of his army’s leaders.

Graham T. Dozier on a Civil War Soldier Who Became a Civil War Tourist

Civil War buffs and historians are not the only people interested in visiting historical battlefields. On our Civil War blog, Graham T. Dozier, editor of A Gunner in Lee’s Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter observes how Civil War battle sites have long fascinated visitors of all kinds.

Shane J. Maddock: The Case for Nuclear Zero

U.S. military dominance in both the quantity and quality of its weapons has reached a point where it has stopped increasing the nation’s security and has begun to erode it instead. Unable to match the conventional might of the United States, nations who fear American coercion can either seek nuclear weapons to deter a U.S. attack or use the threat of retaliatory terrorist attacks to make Washington pause. U.S. fear that its enemies will resort to either of these two options, in turn, leads to pressure to increase military spending to even higher levels.

Kathryn Shively Meier: A Civil War Soldier Beats the Odds on the Virginia Peninsula

From the summer of 1861 to the spring of 1862, each Confederate or Union soldier was sick an average of three times. It was also the norm for soldiers to shun official army medical care, as they found the medicines loathsome and dreaded being separated from their regiments, often familiar faces from back home. Though contemporary physicians were still caught up in such theories of disease causation as the four humors (the conception that illness occurred when the four main bodily fluids were in need of recalibration), laypeople preferred environmental explanations for sickness that could be confirmed by observation and personal experience.

Jacqueline E. Whitt: Cooperation without Compromise: Military Chaplains’ Responses to the End of DADT

As the movement for the repeal of DADT gained political momentum, dozens of retired military chaplains and civilian religious organizations expressed grave concerns that a repeal of DADT would coerce military chaplains into performing services contrary to the dictates of their religious confession or would effectively silence their protected religious speech about the sinfulness of homosexuality. There were warnings of mass resignations or a mass exodus from the military chaplaincy by evangelical chaplains (who fill most chaplain billets). Ultimately, few chaplains have actually resigned their military commissions as a result of their opposition to the repeal of DADT or the ruling of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.

Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine: Troubles with Empire

Empire has had a long and troubled career in U.S. politics and culture–and the old angst is still very much with us. Over the last decade or so we have heard the familiar refrain adamantly denying the existence of an American empire, even as some have insisted just as adamantly on the reality or at least the possibility of an American empire. We embarked on our study of the four U.S. wars in Asia with no intention of getting mixed up in what seemed a tired, unproductive debate. We had our hands full working out the contours of our wars and tracing the relationship of each to the others.

Shane J. Maddock: Obama’s Course Correction on Iran

Much of the evidence now available suggests the Bush administration threats reinvigorated a moribund program. A Central Intelligence Agency report contended that Iran had abandoned its weapons program. But after the Bush administration scuttled diplomatic agreements regarding the Iranian program, hardliners took control and argued that Iran needed a nuclear weapon to deter a potential U.S. or Israeli military attack. They argued that Iraq had abandoned its nuclear ambitions under pressure from the West and reaped a brutal invasion for its efforts. North Korea, on the other hand, thwarted Western efforts to end its nuclear weapons program and avoided Baghdad’s fate. Arguments that at least the threat of a nuclear weapon was necessary took on greater persuasiveness given that U.S. military deployments sandwiched Iranian territory.

Kathryn Shively Meier: Civil War Soldier Trauma in Unexpected Places

Soldiers on both sides pegged environmental circumstances as some of the most serious stressors of the war. Privates through non-commissioned officers, common soldiers rarely had traveled far from home before deploying. That meant the vast majority of them were transported to foreign environments that appeared extremely threatening based on popular notions of disease causation. Lacking conceptions of germ theory or insect-borne illness (theories developed in the 1870s and 80s respectively), mid-century Americans widely believed that a sudden change of location or weather and the air, water, and terrain of certain locales (particularly those of the South) caused life-threatening diseases, such as dysentery, malaria, and typhoid. It was clear to soldiers that disease claimed far more mortalities than combat; indeed, two-thirds of soldier deaths by war’s end would be from sickness rather than wounds. Nature appeared to be the soldiers’ fiercest enemy.

Michael H. Hunt: Obama and Syria: Trapped in a Web of Words

Language is in its potency a trap—in this case an inducement to action even when careful consideration warns of potentially dire consequences. Put differently, the axioms handed down from earlier policy practice have demonstrated their capacity to overrule prudent calculation. That insight leaves us with a set of genuine questions.

Rod Andrew Jr.: Wade Hampton, One of the Last Confederate Generals to Surrender

Before the war began, few would have foreseen Hampton emerging as a die-hard Confederate. After President Abraham Lincoln called for troops to suppress the Southern rebellion, however, Hampton no longer hesitated.

Jeff Broadwater: James Madison, the Constitution, and the War of 1812

For all his genius as a political theorist (we remember him as “the Father of the Constitution”) and despite remarkable success as a politician (he lost only one election in a public career spanning forty years) James Madison has never been ranked among the greatest of presidents. The War of 1812 permanently stained his reputation. Yet Madison’s wartime leadership deserves a second look.

Andre M. Fleche: Why an International Perspective is Important in Understanding the Civil War

For too long, popular interpretations of the Civil War have portrayed foreign-born soldiers as hirelings and mercenaries, similar to the hated “Hessians” who had fought for the British during the American Revolution. It is high time to acknowledge that they had as many ideological reasons for fighting as their native-born counterparts.

Excerpt: The Peninsula Campaign & the Necessity of Emancipation, by Glenn David Brasher

Turning to the war, Davis confirmed reports that some slaves were armed and fighting for the South, but he assured his audience that it “was done solely on compulsion.” Having been a slave foreman, he perceptively compared their plight to that of slaves who “were often made to fill the place of whipping-master.” He maintained that the best way to prevent the South from continually taking military advantage of the enslaved community was to free the slaves so they could “go forth conquering.”