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

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

Excerpt: Framing Chief Leschi, by Lisa Blee

In this excerpt, Lisa Blee examines how the war in Iraq informed the Historical Court of Justice’s decision to exonerate Chief Leschi 150 years later. Continue Reading Excerpt: Framing Chief Leschi, by Lisa Blee

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. Continue Reading Shane J. Maddock: The Case for Nuclear Zero

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

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

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

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

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. Continue Reading Kathryn Shively Meier: Civil War Soldier Trauma in Unexpected Places

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

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

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

Excerpt: Battle Hymns, by Christian McWhirter

He ordered them to leave the camp as soon as possible, but they received permission to stay one more day because of bad weather “if they behave themselves properly.” They did not. Continue Reading Excerpt: Battle Hymns, by Christian McWhirter

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

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.” Continue Reading Excerpt: The Peninsula Campaign & the Necessity of Emancipation, by Glenn David Brasher

Excerpt: The Civil War in the West, by Earl J. Hess

The attack at Fort Donelson proved to be anything but easy. In fact, the Federals tackled a job that was far more difficult than taking Fort Henry. Continue Reading Excerpt: The Civil War in the West, by Earl J. Hess

Interview: Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine on America’s quest for empire

Most Americans have been inoculated against the notion that our country can behave like an empire. Therefore, some readers may well find the focus on empire unsettling. After all, we are regularly reminded by our politicians, clergy, teachers, and the media that the U.S. is an exceptional country. We don’t do empire. That’s for the bad guys. We like to believe that whatever America does internationally is for the common good of humanity. As authors, all we ask is that readers consider our general definition of empire on its historical merits and give our treatment of the U.S. case a fair hearing. Continue Reading Interview: Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine on America’s quest for empire

Excerpt: Arc of Empire, by Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine

The history of American empire building and warfare in one region speaks to the current imbroglio across the Middle East and Central Asia in a striking variety of ways. U.S. policymakers have ignored or have deliberately forgotten the lessons from the conflicts in eastern Asia. Continue Reading Excerpt: Arc of Empire, by Michael H. Hunt and Steven I. Levine

Michael H. Hunt: Afghanistan and an unkind God

Turning our backs on the grim prospects for Afghanistan is part of a long tradition. We drew a veil over the struggle against insurgents in the Philippines. A combination of amnesia and speculative might-have-beens disposed of the Korean stalemate and the Vietnam defeat, and it seems likely the Iraq invasion and occupation will suffer the same fate. Continue Reading Michael H. Hunt: Afghanistan and an unkind God

Meredith Lair: What Was in the Other Three Bags?

The fourth bag, the one for which O’Hair had to pay, contained weapons, essential implements of warfare that speak to the harsh conditions one would expect to find in a war zone. Yet no one has ever asked what is, in my opinion, the most important question: What was in the other three bags? Continue Reading Meredith Lair: What Was in the Other Three Bags?