By Bruce Catton
A desirable research of the 1st sleek warfare and its impact on American tradition.
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Extra resources for America Goes to War: The Civil War and Its Meaning in American Culture
There was an old regular army man, General Charles F. Smith— tall, slim, straight as a ramrod, with long flowing white mustachios—who knew instinctively how to lead men in action. He showed up at Fort Donelson with a division of green troops who had never before been under fire, and he had to lead them up a hill, through tangled woods and underbrush, in a charge on a Confederate line of trenches. He stuck his cap on the point of his sword, got out in front of his frightened greenhorns, and started off.
In die final year of die war a recruit camp was usually conducted like a penitentiary. It had to be: it had pretty much the same class of occupants, and they were just about as reluctant to remain. You can read of places where new recruits were commonly made to wear the ball and chain; of men who had enlisted ten or a dozen times, collecting the bounty each time and then deserting at the first opportunity in order to 45 America Goes to War re-enlist somewhere else; of veterans in famous regiments complaining that their ranks were being filled up with outand-out criminals, who would sit around die campfire (as long as diey bothered to remain in camp) and brag about their exploits as safecrackers or cutpurses.
Perhaps the best illustration of this is the battle of Shiloh, where two green armies ran into each other head-on and fought for two days. It is almost impossible nowadays to understand how pathetically unready for battle were most of die men who were pushed into the great fight at Shiloh. A Confederate brigadier general confessed afterward that until the moment the fight began he had never heard a gun fired, nor had he ever read a book or heard a lecture on tactics. There were Confederate batteries in that battle which had never fired dieir guns before; ammunition had been too short to allow practice firing.