Sunday, May 07, 2006

History's Familiar Ring

Occasionally, I receive a strange look or awkward glance when I mention my passion for the American Civil War. The inevitable question soon follows concerning the relevance of events some 140 years past. That history forgotten repeats itself may appear too trite a response. Yet, consider this comment by Frank Haskell, an Army of the Potomac veteran and soldier at the Battle of Gettysburg. His sentiments possess a very familiar ring.

Cemetery Ridge

Cemetery Ridge south of the Copse of Trees,
part of the ground Lt. Frank Haskell helped to defend.

"But men there are who think that nothing was gained or done well in this battle, because some other general did not have the command, or because any portion of the army of the enemy was permitted to escape capture or destruction. As if one army of a hundred thousand men could encounter another of the same number of as good troops and annihilate it! Military men do not claim or expect this; but the McClellan destroyers do, the doughty knights of purchasable newspaper quills; the formidable warriors from the brothels of politics, men of much warlike experience against honesty and honor, of profound attainments in ignorance, who have the maxims of Napoleon, whose spirit they as little understand as they most things, to quote, to prove all things; but who, unfortunately, have much influence in the country and with the Government, and so over the army. It is very pleasant for these people, no doubt, at safe distances from guns, in the enjoyment of a lucrative office, or of a fraudulently obtained government contract, surrounded by the luxuries of their own firesides, where mud and flooding storms, and utter weariness never penetrate, to discourse of battles and how campaigns should be conducted and armies of the enemy destroyed. But it should be enough, perhaps, to say that men here, or elsewhere, who have knowledge enough of military affairs to entitle them to express an opinion on such matters, and accurate information enough to realize the nature and the means of this desired destruction of Lee's army before it crossed the Potomac into Virginia, will be most likely to vindicate the Pennsylvania campaign of Gen. Meade, and to see that he accomplished all that could have been reasonably expected of any general of any army."



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